It’s Indy week. It’s the final time the Cup Series will head to Indianapolis for the regular-season finale. It’s also the second time. The 26th race of the season next year will be at Daytona while Indy moves to July 4.
1. Kyle Busch
Busch finished third despite blowing a tire with fewer than five laps to go and smashing into the wall. You can thank NASCAR’s lack of a caution for that good finish. Busch probably wouldn’t have been able to finish third if there was a restart. And there might have been a restart if the race hadn’t started so late. You gotta wonder if there was at least a subconscious thought in NASCAR race control of “it’s approaching 2 a.m. let’s get this race over with.”
Anyway, Busch clinched the regular-season championship with that third-place finish. With 45 bonus points to his name already, Busch will start the playoffs as the top seed.
2. Denny Hamlin
A good run was spoiled for Hamlin when Daniel Hemric blew a tire ahead of him and started a multi-car collision. The damage was severe enough that Hamlin lost multiple laps as the team tried to fix it, and his chances at a win were over.
It wasn’t the greatest of Darlington weekends for Hamlin. He won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race for about 90 minutes until post-race inspection found that his car was illegal and needed to be disqualified. That’s the second disqualification of a winning car this year in NASCAR’s top three series and the first in the Xfinity Series. There have been no DQs of race-winning cars in the Cup Series in 2019. Yet. We always figured the first one would happen during the playoffs.
3. Joey Logano
Logano was 14th on Sunday night. It was his fifth straight finish outside the top 10 and, as a result, he went from first in the standings to losing out on the regular-season title to Busch with one race to go before the playoffs. If Logano’s struggles aren’t a sign of things to come in the playoffs. he’s going to be just fine. If they are, well, making the third round could even be a challenge.
4. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex finished a spot behind Logano in 15th. It’s his worst finish since finishing 19th at Kentucky in early July. He’s just two points behind Kevin Harvick for fourth in the points standings and 15 points behind Denny Hamlin for third. Truex has had some fast cars at Indianapolis lately and has a great strategist as a crew chief. It won’t be surprising if he moves up a spot or two in the standings before the playoffs begin.
5. Kevin Harvick
Harvick didn’t have a great car all weekend. But he somehow got a top five.
“Really, [the team] did a great job to do the things that we did tonight to finish fourth and made the car better all night and just had a solid night and finished fourth,” Harvick said.
If Harvick is back to the point where his struggling runs are top-five and top-10 finishes, watch out.
Keselowski was really good in short bursts on Sunday night. But that’s not enough at Darlington.
“It was kind of a blue-collar top five,” Keselowski said after finishing fifth. “We just hung around fifth to 10th all day and was able to clear off a few cars there at the end and ended up fifth. We had really good short run speed with the Miller Ford, but we didn’t really have the long run speed and the long runs, you’ve got to have that.”
7. Erik Jones
Jones moves up to seventh in the rankings after getting his first win of the season. A win isn’t a surprise at all given the summer speed Jones has shown. Heck, his worst finish since finishing 23rd at Daytona came at Bristol and that was because his car got damaged while he was racing for the lead.
There’s no doubt that Christopher Bell is a great racing talent. But the idea that Bell should replace Jones in the No. 20 has always seemed absurd. Jones is a damn good racer too and is younger than Bell. The speed he’s shown in his young Cup Series career is legitimate and it’s not a stretch at all to believe that Jones has a Cup title in his future.
8. Kurt Busch
Busch just keeps on plugging along near the front of the field this season. He finished seventh on Sunday night and is seventh in the points standings. Crazily enough, he’s the best Chevy driver in the points. Who’d have guessed that at the beginning of the season?
9. Kyle Larson
Larson provided the moment of NBC’s rain delay coverage when he was playing video games with Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“I’m shocked [playing video games] is what you’re doing, Larson.”— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) September 1, 2019
“Why, is that an Asian joke?”
“I’ll probably get in trouble for that. But I’m Asian, so I can say it." pic.twitter.com/7MDBx6C8MV
He then went out and finished second. Showing off your comedic chops and getting a top-two finish? Not a bad Sunday night and Monday morning.
10. Chase Elliott
Elliott led nine laps early in the race and then ended up finishing 19th.
11. Ryan Blaney
Blaney finished 13th. He’s now 10th in the points standings after Larson passed him.
12. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer finished sixth and has put himself in the playoffs with one race to go. Bowyer is currently 15th in the standings and eight points to the good over Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez tied for the final spot. If you can’t beat Newman heads-up at a track where speed is imperative in a Stewart-Haas Racing car you don’t deserve to make the playoffs.
Lucky Dog: Matt DiBenedetto finished eighth. That’s a nice way to follow up a second-place finish at Bristol.
The DNF: Michael McDowell has crashed out of each of the past two races and is now 28th in the standings.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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