Track Talk: Brickyard 400 at Indy

Whether it's run today or Monday, the Brickyard 400 should be exciting with a pagoda shot to boot.

Whether it’s run today or Monday, the Brickyard 400 should be exciting with a pagoda shot to boot.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Cody ShoppeJose Acero Jr, Katie Copple, and Stephen Conley weigh in on Brad Keselowski’s Southern 500 win, how Kyle Larson can rebound from his Darlington defeat, and the closure of Furniture Row Racing following this season.

Question 1
Brad Keselowski finally won his first race of 2018 in special style. (Photo Credit: Kathleen Cassidy/TPF)

Brad Keselowski finally won his first race of 2018 in special style. (Photo Credit: Kathleen Cassidy/TPF)

Brad Keselowski parlayed patience along with a solid pit stop and pit exit to win his first Southern 500.  How much of a relief is it for the Michigander and his No. 2 team to finally win their first race of 2018, especially at Darlington?

Acero :  At last, he’s playoff bound! Great to finally see Keselowski get that monkey of his back and at a place with so much history! Momentum momentum momentum for that No. 2 team headed to playoffs!

Conley :  It has to be a huge relief to finally get in the winners circle, but as far as momentum, I’m not sure if it’s enough. Keselowski and Logano were both strong, but we’re talking about a unique one of a kind track that had increased tire wear. Darlington and Atlanta are two tracks that i don’t put much stock in when looking at momentum and how it will translate in to the rest of the season and the playoffs. They are in, but they still need to up that mile and a half program.

Copple :  Penske Racing has been much like Hendrick Motorsports this season – struggling. For a driver like Kelesowski to be winless this far into the season, capturing his first win at a track like Darlington is a big deal.

Hobbs :  They say once the first one comes, the rest are easier, right? Brad Keselowski has not been bad this season, but clearly there are a few drivers who have been better. It must feel pretty darn good for the 2 crew to finally get a win!

Hull :  With the struggle to capture his first win,  I am sure that it’s a huge weight lifted off of Brad Keselowski’s shoulder. I think it will be a confidence booster heading into the playoffs.

Lucas :  It’s always a great feeling to finally break a winless drought, even if it was a relatively short one. Brad and company are pointed in the right direction as we head into the final regular season race. I wouldn’t count these guys as an early playoff drop-out. They are definitely a championship caliber team that could be dangerous in October.

Shoppe :  This big win for Brad and the No. 2 team is such a sigh of relief! It couldn’t come at a better time! We have talked all year about a select few winning all the time but I would say building the momentum now is more valuable going into the playoffs then just resting on your success earlier in the year.

Question 2
Can Kyle Larson put last Sunday night's Darlington defeat in the rear view mirror? (Photo Credit: Jose Acero Jr/TPF)

Can Kyle Larson put last Sunday night’s Darlington defeat in the rear view mirror? (Photo Credit: Jose Acero Jr/TPF)

After a bitter defeat in Sunday night’s Southern 500, how can Kyle Larson and his No. 42 team rally at Indianapolis after leading 284 of 367 laps at Darlington?

Acero :  Larson is capable of not only bouncing back but winning at Indy! Such a dominant performance at Darlington to only come up short! Look for Larson to make some noise and try and kiss the bricks this weekend!

Conley : Larson was hands down the “Best In Field” when it came to looking at who could challenge the “Big Three”, but performance has been off lately and they may not be the team to challenge Busch, Harvick and Truex Jr. What they need is to go out and lead everything in Indy, but more so, do it in Las Vegas the following week. It’s important for Larson to get off to a strong start in the playoffs.  

Copple :  Larson is by far the strongest Chevy in Cup this season. That’s pretty obvious when looking back on the regular season. But do I see him in Victory Lane at Indy? No. Chevy isn’t a strong competitor. They are lacking something that will get them the wins they usually acquire through a season. Will he finish well at Indy? Yes. But a win? Larson has the capability, Chevy does not.

Hobbs :  Kyle Larson just needs to keep his head held high. Yes, this season has been a disappointment in terms of being so close so many times, but he is running very well! The endings are just not in his favor right now, but he is one of the strongest cars there. I see him joining Harvick, Busch, and Truex Jr. in the final four at Homestead. Keep it up Larson; that victory will surely come!

Hull :  Kyle Larson has had an up and down season so far. I am sure he will perform well at Indy, but it won’t be enough to get a win.

Lucas :  I don’t have a great feeling for Larson and the No. 42 team this weekend. Something tells me he will not get the win at the Brickyard, but he’ll probably end up being the top performing Chevy on Sunday.

Shoppe : While I wouldn’t say the No. 42 team will be as dominant in Indy, I do think they will win soon! As great as Larson has run at times this year there is no doubt they will break through eventually. Larson is no longer finding himself making late race mistakes, over-driving, or losing focus, he is on his game now more than ever!

Question 3
What will happen to Martin Truex Jr, Cole Pearn, and the talents at Furniture Row Racing after 2018? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

What will happen to Martin Truex Jr, Cole Pearn, and the talents at Furniture Row Racing after 2018? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Furniture Row Racing will cease operations following the end of this season due to funding issues for 2019.  Given the facts at the moment, how big of a blow is this for NASCAR? Does the business model in NASCAR need adjustments to decrease the burden on team owners for their budgets?

Acero :  NASCAR needs to restructure inside and out. The fact that the current championship team is ceasing operations is a sign of the hardship the sport is going through at the moment. Teams need to come up with a solution to maintain and keep current sponsors happy so this won’t happen again.

Conley :  The business model has to change at some point. We can’t keep losing teams, especially the Championship team. This is two years in a row. FRR lost the 77 after last year and we can’t keep expecting companies to drop 30 million dollars a year to help a race team run without guarantees that the ROI will benefit said company.

Teams right now are looking at 60,000 or more each weekend to put a car on track, but with these teams continuing to operate as “independent contractors”, there is not much NASCAR can do to chance that side. This is going to require a major overhaul with both NASCAR and the team owners and stakeholders to work together and look in the mirror to see where the problem lies.

And as for Michael Waltrip’s idea of putting the “stock” back in stock cars. You can’t put pandora back in the box, especially when it comes to technology.

Copple :  On one hand, I don’t understand. A few years ago when the team was struggling just to run consistently in the top 20, maybe. But now? FRR is a strong organization and with MTJ behind the wheel, have become a championship winning organization. On the other hand, sponsorship is hard to come by. Big, powerhouse teams are struggling with sponsorship and they have cash that can carry them into the next season, but as a single car team, FRR doesn’t have that luxury.

NASCAR is losing a great team. These team owners and organizations are struggling to just make ends meet and get cars on the track each weekend. If a team, a championship winning team, can’t fund a car, how are these even lower funded teams expected to do the same? If this trend continues in the coming years, NASCAR will be seeing fields of 20 cars instead of 40.

Hobbs :  This is a big issue in the sport; no doubt about it. A championship winning driver and team cannot secure funding for the next season? Jimmie Johnson, a 7-time champion, is losing his primary sponsor of his entire career? It is clearly becoming too pricey for a single sponsor to stick around the entire season. NASCAR needs to help these teams. Heck, NASCAR needs help themselves so it is truly a disappointing pickle for NASCAR and the 78 crew.

Hull :  This is a huge blow to this sport. While Furniture Row Racing isn’t a leviathan team like Hendrick Motorsports, it was a championship team. It really makes me sad for this team. They have accomplished too much to have to shut down. The business model needs to change or there will be no more NASCAR.

Lucas :  It is absolutely bonkers! To think that a team one season removed from a championship & in the hunt for another one, is closing its doors for good after Homestead this season. Unfathomable, yet this is a sad reality that we have learned this week. The sad thing is, this isn’t going to be the only one.

We’re in trouble as a sport. Something has got to change. The supposed “switching back to short tracks” model won’t solve anything. We need to take a careful look at the cars and, to be frank, dumb them down.

Michael Waltrip tweeted about bringing the “stock” back to stock car racing. I agree 100%. These cars are four wheel science projects full of dirty air. Myself and a close colleague of mine, could give you a dissertation about how these current cars could be made better. Not enough paragraph space to discuss that, perhaps on a rainy day I’ll present it to y’all.  

Shoppe : This is an unprecedented occurrence in modern-era NASCAR. It is unheard of in this day in age for a top-tier organization being forced to shut down while not only winning but winning often and running for a title (potential second straight title).

It would be one thing if this was a situation where a team finally achieved their goal of winning the championship. They were satisfied with reaching the pinnacle of success and were calling it good.

This is a different much more unpleasant reality showing up where they cannot afford to do it. It has always been an unfortunate reality that this sport is driven by money over talent and this will go down as a frustrating, eye-opening example of that.

That’s three special laps around Indianapolis because it’s the Brickyard 400!  As usual, we’ll take a look at the prior race results and points standings heading into Indy!
Lucas' consistency was rewarded with a solid race pick.

Lucas’ consistency was rewarded with a solid race pick.

Hobbs continues to lead the way heading into the regular season finale.

Hobbs continues to lead the way heading into the regular season finale.

Friends, it’s winning time on Track Talk!  Let’s reveal those picks to win the Brickyard 400 at Indy!
We're a little Team Penske, they're a little bit of Gibbs and Furniture Row.

We’re a little Team Penske, they’re a little bit of Gibbs and Furniture Row.

Tiongson :  I loved the speed we’ve seen from Brad Keselowski as of late.  Given how pumped he is from winning the Southern 500, I imagine he’ll be as hyped up to win the Brickyard 400.

Acero :  Ryan Blaney!

Hull:  Look for Erik Jones to pull off a shocker.

Lucas :  Shock, sadness, anger. All these things will make the No. 78 team fight furiously through hellfire for their final of 11 races ever, starting this weekend at the Brickyard. Picking up right where they left off last year before crashing out with Kyle Busch, look for Martin Truex Jr to kiss the bricks!

TPF Stats : Ford and Toyota has been dominate this season, and the winner will come from there.  Kyle Busch to kiss the bricks at Indy!

Conley: Back to the “Big Three.” Kyle Busch will kiss the bricks yet again.

Hobbs:  Kevin Harvick will look to upset Rowdy and try to grab P1 in the regular season (as will I)!

Shoppe :  Kevin Harvick.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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