NASCAR Roundtable: Why was the Brickyard 400 so chaotic?

Our NASCAR team tackles the hottest topics in NASCAR this week.

NASCAR Roundtable: Why was the Brickyard 400 so chaotic?
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet takes the checkered flag
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet restart
Crash cleanup
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet wreck
Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota nd Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota spin
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford wreck
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford crash Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Gray Gaulding, Premium Motorsports Toyota
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford wreck
William Byron, JR Motorsports Chevrolet takes the checkered flag
Race winner William Byron, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
William Byron, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner William Byron, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Matt Crafton, ThorSport Racing Toyota and Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Race winner Matt Crafton, ThorSport Racing Toyota
Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski Racing Ford nd Matt Crafton, ThorSport Racing Toyota green flag start
Johnny Sauter, GMS Racing Chevrolet

Once again, the NASCAR overtime line came into play and some controversy has come from it. What were your thoughts on the finish of the Brickyard 400?

Jim: As I mentioned earlier this week in a column, the overtime experience has been a failure. The calling of a caution flag is an arbitrary act in itself. Creating system that just relies on NASCAR doing that even more often only adds to the arbitrariness of the finish. It's time to go back the finishing the race at the advertised distance. 

Lee: The caution should have been called the moment Denny Hamlin plowed nose-first into the wall. At that moment, the first consideration is the safety of the drivers — not competition. Yes, we all want to see the race play out and end under a green flag. But the well-being of the competitors comes first. With sunset looming, there would not have been time to clean up the mess and restart the race but it would have been better to call the race due to darkness rather than delay displaying the yellow in order for the leaders — and eventual winner Kasey Kahne — to reach the overtime line.

Nick: Whether they threw the caution the moment the wreck ensued (which they should have) or after the leaders passed the overtime line, it didn't matter in this situation. The race was over due to night time approaching. But as I've said many times before, the overtime line is useless and causes more harm than good. Use the start/finish line as they did before.

Tim: I thought NASCAR should have announced that due to darkness, that was going to be the last attempt at a green finish. I think the idea in theory from the drivers is a good one for safety, but in practical use it hasn’t reached the desired effect. I guess I’m old school, but let racers police themselves and go until you get a finish under green-flag conditions.

There was a record for most cautions in a Cup race at IMS on Sunday. What do you think contributed to all of the carnage over the last 50 laps of the race?

Jim: Hard racing for position, which is just fine by me. It seems people are either in two camps - races are too boring because nothing happens or they aren't good because there are too many accidents. Outside of a rain delay, there were no outside factors that contributed to the aggressive racing on the track. As more cars got taken out of contention toward the end of the race, it opened the door for several teams to cash in on a good finish.

Lee: I have two theories on this. First, there are seven races to decide who will make the playoff field and four positions to fill. With two of the top contenders — Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — out of the race with 57 laps remaining to decide that opened the door for drivers needing a win to transfer into the post-season. Kasey Kahne capitalized on that opportunity. Secondly, rain always seems to raise the intensity of the action on the race track. It seems every driver/team wants to make the most of the time they have to advance their position before the rain comes, particularly if the race is already deemed “official”.

Nick: It was the perfect storm. The two cars that were the class of the field were suddenly gone, several drivers who desperately needed a win were near the front and of course, there were a lot of late-race restarts and it's the Brickyard 400 -- a race every driver wants to win. Things essentially exploded after that vicious crash involving Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch. Every restart was mayhem. It made what is expected to be a dull race one of the most memorable races of the year.

Tim: If Sunday’s race doesn’t quiet the detractors of ‘racers just make laps and don’t race hard all the time,' I don't know what will. I think Sunday was a product of several drivers racing hard to try and get a win, which is great for the sport and something the fans should applaud.

William Byron has shown he's more than capable of winning races in the NXS with his three recent wins. Are you surprised with his success?

Jim: Byron's development seems very similar to what he accomplished in the Truck series. Once he got acclimated to his team and crew chief, his talent begins to shine. That's certainly the case so far this season. The sky's the limit for Byron as far as I'm concerned. The best part is he is only 19 and will only get better.

Lee: Considering what Byron was able to accomplish in the Camping World Truck Series — winning seven of 24 races — the answer would be no. Had it not been for two engine failures, Byron would have run away with the championship. He’s in equally competitive equipment this season in the Xfinity Series with solid veteran teammates to lean on. Although Byron’s progress was slowed by consecutive wrecks at Richmond and Talladega in the spring, he’s recovered nicely. Since Michigan, his average finish is 2.5.

Nick: After seeing what he did in the Trucks, I kind of expected it. Still, three wins and counting as an Xfinity rookie is extremely impressive and no easy feat. In my mind, he's already proven himself worth of a full-time Cup ride.

Tim: Not at all. He proved in the truck series he has the talent and now that he’s going back to tracks for the second time and he’s had time to get familiar with the car, he’s going to win several more this season and I feel he will contend for the title.

Kasey Kahne was able to end his long winless drought on Sunday. Who do you think will be the next to end their winless streak? 

Jim: Bowyer would be my best guess. Although he hasn't led a lot of laps this season, he has been able to get in position to contend for victories. His No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing clearly has what it takes to win, they just need to get all the pieces to come together on race day.

Lee: Clint Bowyer is in the best equipment to accomplish the task. Of the remaining races before the Playoffs, Bowyer’s only wins were at Richmond International Raceway, where he’s scored two of his seven victories and enjoys his second best average finish. It’s almost been two years for Dale Earnhardt Jr., too, whose only route to the post-season is with a win. Earnhardt’s best shot to win is Pocono or Michigan. Junior swept the Pocono races in 2014. 

Nick: Not to join the crowd, but yes, Clint Bowyer has the best chance. He's been close more than once this year and he's in top notch equipment. Part of the reason why he's facing such a winless streak is because he didn't have a capable car under him. Well, he does now.

Tim: I feel Clint Bowyer should be the next winner to erase his long winless drought. With Talladega coming up, you can’t count out Aric Almirola or Trevor Bayne either. But I think Bowyer will win before we get to Talladega though. 

Matt Crafton also ended a winless streak with his win at Eldora. Do you think it will come down to him and Sauter for the title in Homestead, or who else do you think will be a factor for the NCWTS crown this season based on performance so far this season?

Jim: My money is still on Christopher Bell. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver has been the most consistent this season. Even with a slow start last year, Bell still advanced to the Championship 4 at Homestead. I fully expect to see him there again this season.

Lee: How can you not throw Christopher Bell in the mix? Sure, experience is on the veterans’ side but Bell gets better with each race. He leads the tour with three wins and three poles and 10 top-10 finishes in the first 11 races. Bell’s average finish of sixth is also the best among the truckers — and I don’t see him slowing down.

Nick: Those two veterans will certainly have a role to play, but watch out for Bell and Briscoe. And honestly, John Hunter Nemechek has shown me that he might surprise a few people come playoff time. When he needs to get up on the wheel, he has no problem doing and getting the job done.

Tim: I agree with Jim and Lee that Christopher Bell should be there in contention at Homestead, but you can’t count out Johnny Sauter. My surprise pick to be in the final four would have to be Chase Briscoe. 

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