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Podium Preview: Verizon 200 at Indianapolis

Tyler Reddick sets sight on winning Sunday's Verizon 200 at Indianapolis. (Photo: Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Tyler Reddick sets sight on winning Sunday’s Verizon 200 at Indianapolis. (Photo: Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

No matter which layout is used, a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is still significant, particularly with Sunday’s Verizon 200.

The 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course is a unique layout with two distinct straights, hard braking and passing zones daring drivers to balance patience with aggression. Undoubtedly, this track tests drivers and equipment, particularly with the quick laps around this lengthy venue.

Sure, the race pays the same amount of points and provides a chance to further secure a Playoff spot. However, the winning driver and team can kiss the yard of bricks when all is said and done.

Last year, AJ Allmendinger capitalized after Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe tangled in the waning moments. This year, he looks to sweep the Indianapolis weekend but he’ll have to march his way to the front. Meanwhile, Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric and pole sitter, Tyler Reddick, seem to be early race favorites.

This weekend, Cody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle RaynorNathan SolomonTaylor Kitchen and yours truly think over NASCAR laying down the law down the law and the prestige behind the Indianapolis road course race.

Podium Preview: Verizon 200 at Indianapolis
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Question 1
NASCAR laid down the law with initial Pocono winner Denny Hamlin. (Photo: Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

NASCAR laid down the law with initial Pocono winner Denny Hamlin. (Photo: Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Last Sunday’s race at Pocono featured a historical moment with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, the initial top two finishers, being disqualified. Considering their disqualifications along with the penalties levied against Michael McDowell, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon, has NASCAR dropped the hammer with teams pushing the limits?

Tiongson : Absolutely. NASCAR isn’t tolerating any wiggle room for skirting the rules by any stretch of the imagination. It does not preclude the reality that teams push the envelope. Any driver and team that does not push for the maximum won’t have to think too long about why they do not contend for wins when it’s all said and done.

However, the line is clear and drawn on what teams can do with these Next Gen cars. This isn’t like 20 or 30 years ago when shaving a fraction off the body may have not been caught by the room of doom inspectors.

Ultimately, NASCAR should continually improve upon their regulations and guidelines to ensure a series that’s fair and competitive. What we don’t need is to see NASCAR suck the fun out of the series by having its rules dictate the outcome of races like at Pocono last Sunday.

Solomon : I love what NASCAR has done over the course of the last week. I certainly don’t like teams getting penalized, but I love how NASCAR is responding to teams.

Before the season started, NASCAR made it very clear that they will be hard on teams who illegally alter the Next Gen car. At Atlanta in March, Brad Keselowski’s team was penalized for modifying a single-source part. I figured teams would learn from that, but clearly, they didn’t.

Two disqualifications, two L1 penalties and an L2 penalty later at Pocono alone, NASCAR has made its stance on the Next Gen car extremely clear – don’t modify parts. Don’t add illegal materials. 

Lambeth : NASCAR has certainly decided to lay down the law and rightfully so. Teams are always pushing every limit and trying to find an edge over the competition, but sometimes it can go too far. So, it’s important to let the entire garage area know where they stand on certain issues.

Sending a strong message can prevent future issues from emerging. Unfortunately, NASCAR has to make an example out of some to get everyone to fall in line under the rules. At the end of the day, I believe that everyone wants the same thing. Fair competition and an even playing field to ensure NASCAR puts on a compelling on-track product as a whole.

Kitchen : NASCAR has absolutely dropped the hammer with teams pushing the limits, as they should. 

The goal with the Gen 7 car is to put everyone on an even playing field. If teams start to disobey that premise, if they have, it is appropriate to penalize the teams. 

Something NASCAR needs to reevaluate is the type of penalties they are giving the teams. Personally, I feel as if a disqualification should have more of an impact than a loose tire penalty has. However, I also feel like the loose tire penalty is a bit too harsh. 

So, I do believe NASCAR is doing the right thing, but they need to reevaluate the punishments they give out per penalty. 

Question 2
To oval or to road course. (Photo: Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

To oval or to road course. (Photo: Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

It’s the second consecutive year of Cup racing on the road course layout at Indianapolis. Does this layout still carry the prestige of winning at one of the most prestigious tracks in all of motorsports?

Shoppe : Let’s be honest. Since Indy changed to the road course layout, it stopped being considered a crown jewel to many. I think it still holds a special importance still being at the most prestigious track in the world regardless of the layout. 

As for how NASCAR should proceed at IMS, I would be a fan of a back and forth between the road course and the oval each year. Give both sides what they want. Now this should be for Cup Series only! Bring Xfinity back to Lucas Oil IRP with the Trucks where they belong. 

Sisoler : As much as I love the idea and the spectacle of having NASCAR race the Indy road course, I hate to say it, but it is hard to say it’s the same as winning the Brickyard 400. It’s still a special race to me because it uses a variant of the US Grand Prix circuit from when F1 raced here, but it isn’t the same thing as winning the race around the oval (rectangle) track that runs the Brickyard 400 and the Indy 500.

I do understand that the attendance for the Brickyard 400 was fading, but having NASCAR on the road course just doesn’t feel as special as on the main track anymore, even if the racing since NASCAR started using that layout has been consistently pretty good.

I’d recommend maybe doing a split weekend for NASCAR and IndyCar. Like one year have Xfinity and IndyCar on the road course on Saturday with Cup going for the Brickyard 400 on the rectangular oval layout Sunday, then do Xfinity by itself on Saturday on the rectangular oval layout with Cup and IndyCar on the road course on Sunday the next year in a rotating schedule. 

That might be fun, and if anyone could pull it off, it’s Penske and his group at Indianapolis.

Raynor : In my opinion, there is nothing like winning on the Indy oval course. There’s nothing like it. It’s not the same as winning on the road course. It’s a great course, but it’s just different. I hope they go back to the oval in the future. 

Sharpe : Indy, in my eyes, will always be better as its original oval configuration. So many stories, both good and bad, have been created at the legendary track. I do not want to take away from the road course configuration because there are great things about it, but there’s a reason why Indy is considered a “crown jewel.” 

If NASCAR wanted to have two races where each configuration was used, I wouldn’t mind that, but to take something that for over one hundred years has been a staple in motorsports racing, and to completely reconfigure it for no reason just bothers me.

Torres : Personally, the Indy road course is a whole different track that isn’t quite there to win me over in terms of being a crown jewel race like the Brickyard 400 was. Yes, winning at Indy is always special but it pales in comparison to winning the oval due to its rarity of even crossing the line in first. If the race quality is a massive improvement, then it’ll gain fair momentum to be considered a true crown jewel.

Fantastic thoughts by our team during our two laps around Indianapolis. Now, let’s rewind to last Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono, race 21 of 36 of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season!
The two disqualifications greatly shook up the Pocono race results...

The two disqualifications greatly shook up the Pocono race results…

...and the points report is also a bit jumbled up.

…and the points report is also a bit jumbled up.

Now, let’s see the top 10 starters for Sunday’s Verizon 200 at Indianapolis!
Row 1
Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric (Photo: Maddie Skidan and Cayden Rush | The Podium Finish)

Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric (Photo: Maddie Skidan and Cayden Rush | The Podium Finish)

Row 2
Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell (Photo: Cayden Rush and Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell (Photo: Cayden Rush and Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Row 3
Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney (Photo: Cayden Rush and Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney (Photo: Cayden Rush and Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Row 4
Michael McDowell and Chase Elliott (Photo: Maddie Skidan and Cayden Rush | The Podium Finish)

Michael McDowell and Chase Elliott (Photo: Maddie Skidan and Cayden Rush | The Podium Finish)

Row 5
Todd Gilliland and Kyle Busch (Photo: Cayden Rush and Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Todd Gilliland and Kyle Busch (Photo: Cayden Rush and Logan Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Lastly, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Verizon 200 at Indianapolis!
It'll be an interesting Verizon 200 among these picks. (Photo: Maddie Skidan, Cayden Rush and Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

It’ll be an interesting Verizon 200 among these picks. (Photo: Maddie Skidan, Cayden Rush and Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

Torres : In light of last year’s race, the Verizon 200 already garner a reputation as a wild card race. So why not go with a true wild card pick this Sunday. When I look at the guys that been solid on road courses, you look at Trackhouse Racing and AJ Allmendinger. I’m going to go a step further.

I’m going with a top-tier road racer by the name of Ty Gibbs who’ll be filling in for Kurt Busch once again. Only this time, he’ll have a whole race weekend to adapt with the new car and log in laps at Indy. Gibbs won in his Xfinity Series debut on a road course and while challenges of running in Cup is an understatement, the young kid can navigate the left and right turns. Expect Gibbs to be a stunning first-time winner this Sunday.

Kitchen : The Toyotas have not had the best luck at road courses. However, I think Christopher Bell has a chance to turn that luck around this weekend.

He is starting with good track position and has some of the best road course racing skills of the TRD camp. I think he’ll get it done on Sunday.

Lambeth : After growing up and watching his father, Tim Cindric, find plenty of success with Team Penske during the month of May, it’s time for Austin Cindric to begin writing his own success story at IMS by getting a Cup win on the road course!

Shoppe : I was all prepared to stay on the Chase Elliott train as he’s been on such a roll and we’re at a road course. But I’m going with a driver who won his first race at the last road course event, beating Elliott outright. He starts on the pole today, give me Tyler Reddick in the No. 8 car to kiss the bricks!

Sharpe : While William Byron might be my least favorite amongst the Hendrick Motorsports organization, I do believe he has what it takes to win. He’s the least chaotic in terms of his style of racing and with the Playoffs looming closer, keeping a low profile can be a great strength.

Raynor : AJ Allmendinger is one of the best at this track and won the Xfinity race on Saturday.

Tiongson : Prior to winning Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 at Indianapolis, AJ Allmendinger was the first driver who came to mind for the win on Sunday. I’m standing by this pick and it’s not farfetched to predict the pride of Los Gatos, California earning his third career Cup win at a city that means a great deal to him. Not to mention, a weekend sweep goes to show that 1980s kids still got what it takes to be great!

Solomon : AJ Allmendinger certainly knows how to get around the Indianapolis Road Course. He won the Cup race last year and is fresh off an Xfinity victory there Saturday. He’s won three Xfinity road course races this season and knows how to handle pressure. Expect Allmendinger to kiss the bricks again on Sunday.

Sisoler : Indy is always special, even if it’s not the Brickyard 400, and the road course last year put on a solid outing, which would’ve been phenomenal in my opinion if the curbs in the chicane hadn’t come up and caused carnage. In the four NASCAR events at the IMS road course (one Cup, three Xfinity) there has only been one guy to win more than once (AJ Allmendinger).

True, he’s got further to go this time, starting 20th as opposed to last year’s 8th, but he also started there at COTA this year and was in contention for the victory at the end. You can never count the Dinger out, and I think he makes it a weekend sweep today after taking the checkered flag in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week! While we progress toward a new kind of normal, please do your part to curb the impacts of the pandemic by washing your hands and getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.

Rob Tiongson is a 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 his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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