2011 Brickyard 400
|Race 20 of 36 in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season|
|Date||31 July 2011|
|Location||Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.0 km)
|Distance||160 laps, 400 mi (643.73 km)|
|Weather||Mostly sunny with a high around 90; wind out of the NNW at 4 mph|
|Average speed||140.762 miles per hour (226.534 km/h)|
|Driver||David Ragan||Roush Fenway Racing|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Kasey Kahne||Red Bull Racing Team|
||Richard Childress Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree|
The 2011 Brickyard 400 presented by BigMachineRecords.com, the 18th running of the event, is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car race held on 31 July 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contested over 160 laps on the 2.5-mile (4.0 km) asphalt rectangular oval, it was the 20th race of the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season.
Pole position driver David Ragan maintained his lead on the first corner to begin the race, as Kasey Kahne, who started in the second position on the grid, remained behind him. However, Kahne overtook Menard to lead the first lap at the finish line. Kahne continued to lead until the 34th lap, when the first caution was given because of debris. Following the final caution, Gordon and several others pitted because of not having enough fuel. Gordon was quicker than the drivers who were saving fuel, but Menard held off Gordon for his first career win.
There were five cautions and 22 lead changes among 13 different drivers throughout the course of the race. It was Menard's first win in the 2011 season. The result moved Menard to the 15th position in the Drivers' Championship. He remained 53 points behind tenth place driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and two ahead of Kasey Kahne in seventh. Chevrolet maintained its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship, 20 points ahead of Ford and 28 ahead of Toyota, with 16 races remaining in the season. A total of 138,000 people attended the race, while 6.4 million watched it on television.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of six superspeedways to hold NASCAR races, the others being Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. The standard track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a four-turn rectangular-oval track that is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long. The track's turns are banked at 9 degrees, while the front stretch, the location of the finish line, has no banking. The back stretch, opposite of the front, also has none. The racetrack has seats for 250,000 spectators.
Before the race, Carl Edwards led the Drivers' Championship with 652 points, and Jimmie Johnson stood in second with 645. Kurt Busch was third in the Drivers' Championship with 641 points, four ahead of Kevin Harvick and nine ahead of Kyle Busch in fourth and fifth. Matt Kenseth with 626 was 39 ahead of Jeff Gordon, as Ryan Newman with 586 points, was nine ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and 16 in front of Denny Hamlin. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Chevrolet was leading with 127 points, 17 ahead of Ford. Toyota, with 105 points, was 29 points ahead of Dodge in the battle for third. Jamie McMurray is the defending winner of the race.
Practice and qualifying
Three practice sessions were held before the race; the first two on Friday, both lasting 75 minutes. The third practice session was held on Saturday, and lasted 90 minutes. Kenseth was quickest with a time of 49.668 seconds in the first session, around seven thousandths of a second faster than Kasey Kahne. Hamlin followed in the third position ahead of Edwards, David Ragan, and Kurt Busch. Juan Pablo Montoya was seventh, still within a second of Kenseth's time.
In the second practice session, Greg Biffle was fastest with a time of 50.474 seconds, less than four-hundredths of a second quicker than second-placed Martin Truex, Jr. Johnson took third place, ahead of Casey Mears, Harvick and Edwards. Kenseth was only quick enough for the 29th position. Also during the second session, Hamlin's engine failed, prompting the session to halt with three minutes remaining. In the third and final practice, Biffle remained quickest with a time of 49.297 seconds. Kahne followed in second, ahead of Kurt Busch and Ragan. Edwards was fifth quickest, with a time of 49.583 seconds. Montoya, A. J. Allmendinger, Kenseth, Brian Vickers, and Johnson rounded out the first ten positions.
Forty-eights cars were entered for qualifying, but only forty-three could qualify for the race because of NASCAR's qualifying procedure. Ragan clinched the second pole position of his career, with a time of 49.182 seconds. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Kahne. Johnson qualified third, Kurt Busch took fourth, and Brad Keselowski started fifth. Allmendinger, Montoya, Gordon, Kenseth and Edwards rounded out the top ten. The five drivers that failed to qualify for the race were David Stremme, Travis Kvapil, Eric Darnell, J. J. Yeley, and Scott Wimmer. Following the conclusion of the session, Ragan commented, "We're working as hard as we ever have. It's finally just showing. We've always had a lot of confidence in our team. The last couple years we've really underperformed. That has not been a secret."
The race, the 20th in the season, began at 1:00 pm EDT and was televised live in the United States on ESPN. From a television standpoint, the race was the first time since the 2004 Ford 400 that Allen Bestwick did the play-by-play for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The conditions on the grid were dry before the race, the air temperature at 80 °F (27 °C); clear skies were expected. Representative Howard Brammer began pre-race ceremonies, by giving the invocation. Next, Rascal Flatts performed the national anthem, and Mari Hulman George gave the command for drivers to start their engines.
Ragan retained his pole position lead into the first corner, followed by Kahne, who started second. However, Kahne managed to take the first position before the conclusion of the first lap. Two laps later, Allmendinger moved up to the third position after passing Kurt Busch. On the sixth lap of the race, Trevor Bayne had to go to pit lane after overheating. After starting eighth on the grid, Gordon had moved up to fourth, as Kurt Busch fell to seventh. By the 11th lap of the race, Kahne had extended his lead to three seconds over Ragan. Three laps later, Gordon moved up to the second position. By lap 17, Kahne had extended his lead to 4.5 seconds. On the 22nd lap, Kenseth passed Allmendinger for the fourth position. After 25 laps, Allmendinger and Kahne pitted, two laps before Kurt Busch. Everyone had pitted by the 30th lap of the race, which moved Kahne back into the first position.
Four laps later, the first caution was given because of debris on the racing surface. Most of the front runners pitted, except Kahne and Gordon. At the lap 38 restart, Kahne was the leader ahead of Gordon and Johnson. By the 42nd lap, Gordon had passed Kahne and expanded his lead to 1.3 seconds. On the following lap, Hamlin moved up to the fifth position, as Kenseth took over the seventh position. On lap 45, Earnhardt, Jr. pitted to remove grass from his front grille. Five laps later, the second caution was given after David Reutimann collided into the wall. All of the front runners pitted during the caution, as Earnhardt Jr. became the leader. On the 57th lap, Kenseth and Johnson passed Kyle Busch for the fourth and fifth position. On the following lap, Gordon moved up to second after overtaking Ragan. Gordon passed Earnhardt, Jr. to become the leader on the 60th lap.
Four laps later, Kahne moved up to the fourth position. On lap 68, Johnson passed his team-mate Earnhardt, Jr. to take the second position. On the 72nd lap, Jamie McMurray pitted for some adjustments. On the next lap, Keselowski pitted, three laps before Tony Stewart. While pitting, Stewart had to do a pass through penalty for going faster than the proposed speed on pit road. After everyone pitted, Gordon reclaimed the lead on lap 84. Ten laps later, debris on the track prompted the third caution. Most of the leaders pitted during the caution. At the lap 97 restart, Paul Menard was the leader, ahead of Kenseth and Ragan. On the 101st lap, Kahne took the sixth position from Hamlin, as Menard remained the leader. Six laps later, Kenseth passed Menard to become the leader. On the 108th lap, Montoya moved up to the third position, as Johnson moved up to 11th. On lap 114, the fourth caution was given after Kyle Busch collided into the wall. Most of the front runners pitted during the caution, while Keselowski didn't.
At the lap 117 restart, Keselowski was the leader. One the following lap, Montoya moved up to the third position, as Marcos Ambrose had a drive through penalty after switching lanes before the start, finish line. On the 120th lap, Landon Cassill spun sideways, prompting the fifth caution to be given. None of the front runners pitted during the caution. Keselowski continued to lead on the lap 126 restart, as Clint Bowyer moved into the second position. On the 130th lap, Jeff Burton pitted, as Gordon overtook Kenseth for the fourth position. On the following lap, Johnson pitted, one lap before Keselowski, Montoya and Kahne. At lap 133, Earnhardt, Jr. and Joey Logano pitted, a lap before Bowyer, and two laps before Gordon. Afterward, Ragan pitted, moving Stewart into the first position. By lap 140, Stewart had a four second lead over second placed Brian Vickers.
Six laps later, Stewart pitted for fuel, moving Menard into the first position. With ten laps remaining, Trevor Bayne moved up to the tenth position, three laps before McMurray became the leader. By the 155th lap, Gordon had moved up to the fifth position, as the drivers infron of him are at a slower pace from trying to get better fuel mileage. With three laps remaining, Menard reclaimed the first position from McMurray, as Gordon moved to third. On the final lap, Gordon moved into the second position, as Menard crossed the finish line first to score his first Sprint Cup Series victory. Gordon was second, ahead of Regan Smith, McMurray, and Kenseth.
Menard appeared in victory lane after his victory lap to start celebrating his first win of his career, in front of a crowd of 138,000 people. "I went and saw him. His eyes, he's like a deer in headlights. I'm so happy for him. It's one thing to get your first win here, but it's another when you can appreciate how special it is to win here. I think Paul certainly has that." said Gordon of Menard's first victory.
Although Stewart was leading the race near the end, he had to pit for fuel. Stewart, who finished sixth, said, "I'm really happy for Paul Menard. Paul's been around this place for a long time, been here since he was a kid. It couldn't have happened to a better guy. It's a pretty deserving win right there. I'm happy for him." In the subsequent press conference, Gordon stated his happiness for Menard by saying, "Just because he's been here so much as a kid experiencing Indy, he knows how special it is to compete here, let alone win here. So I think the feelings are probably very similar. He probably has a greater appreciation for it than I did in '94, because while I was watching from a distance and my heroes were Indy 500 drivers, I wasn't in the garage like he was."
Smith also commented, "I just know what it means to Paul. I know how hard he's worked. He always talks about coming up here. He always talks about how much he loves this place. I know if he had to highlight one race to get his first win, I'm sure he'd tell you in a minute he couldn't be happier. You only get one chance to get your first win. It's a special thing, especially when you do it here." The race result moved Menard up five positions to 14th in the Driver's Championship with 553 points, 53 points behind tenth. Edwards, who finished fourteenth in the race, remained first in the standings, as Johnson followed in second. Harvick followed in third ahead of Kyle Busch and Kenseth Chevrolet maintained their lead in the Manufacturers' Championship with 136 points. Ford and Toyota placed second and third with 116 and 108 points, while Dodge was fourth with 80. 6.4 million people watched the race on television.
Standings after the race
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