Chicago Update: Red Flag comes out for rain at Lap 110; Kenseth leads

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More than an hour after its scheduled start time, the first race of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup got underway at Chicagoland Speedway after rain showers had delayed the drop of the green flag.

Pole sitter Joey Logano quickly shot out to an early lead, leaving Brad Keselowski and Juan Pablo Montoya to dice for second place behind him. While Logano paced the field, five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson – who went into the Chase with four straight finishes outside the Top 25 – quickly moved into the Top 5 after starting ninth on the grid.

When the previously announced competition caution came out at Lap 30, Logano was leading, followed by Keselowski in second, Johnson in third, Juan Pablo Montoya in fourth, and Greg Biffle in fifth.

The leaders then came down for their first stops of the day, and the race off pit road went to Johnson, who took two tires. Following him was Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Aric Almirola, who also all took two. Logano, who grabbed four, dropped back to sixth.

Busch actually managed to beat Johnson to the start/finish line on the Lap 38 restart, which is now permitted thanks to NASCAR’s new restart rules. That enabled Busch to lead Lap 37 under the yellow flag and earn a bonus point, but Johnson was able to take the lead back one lap later.

Johnson held the lead up to his next stop under green on Lap 75, but fell back after losing precious time when an official told them that a lugnut was loose on the right rear. The 48 crew frantically indicated otherwise before their driver was allowed back out. Additional problems were suffered in the green cycle by Kurt Busch, who was tagged for speeding on pit road.

Fox Sports’ Bob Dillner caught this bit of radio transmission between Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus after the stop:

When the cycle ended, Matt Kenseth came away with the lead, while Johnson fell back to fifth behind Kenseth, Keselowski, Logano and Kyle Busch. As for Kurt Busch, he found himself a lap down in 29th after his penalty.

Kenseth, who has claimed three of his five victories this season on 1.5-mile ovals such as Chicagoland, quickly built a sizable gap over Keselowski, Logano and Johnson, who proceeded to fight among each other for the runner-up spot shortly after the Lap 100 mark.

But on Lap 108, the rains returned just as Cole Whitt and Juan Pablo Montoya made contact in Turn 4, which caused the former to go skidding into the infield grass.  The caution came back out with 27 laps left before the race crossed the halfway point at Lap 134.

Three laps later, at Lap 110, the red flag came out and the cars went back to pit road to be quickly covered by teams.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.