The NASCAR Cup Series is making its second foray onto the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, but it will be difficult to rival the chaotic proceedings of last year in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
Competing in the Cup Series in a part-time role for Kaulig Racing, AJ Allmendinger won the debut race on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn circuit. Taking advantage of two late cautions for wild multi-car wrecks, Allmendinger claimed the second Cup victory of his career.
That came after Chase Briscoe knocked Denny Hamlin out of the lead and was parked for doing so. Given the last-lap scramble involving Allmendinger, Alex Bowman and race winner Ross Chastain at Circuit of The Americas earlier this season, the action in the second race at the Indianapolis Road Course is likely to be as memorable.
With five races left in the regular season, 14 drivers already have recorded victories, leaving two playoff spots currently available on points. Those positions are held by last year’s Indianapolis runner-up Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Cup Series
The Race: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Sunday, July 31
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,671,417
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 199.998 miles (82 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 35), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 82)
Chase Elliott (+450 at BetMGM) has won three of the past five Cup races and finished second in the other two. He leads all active drivers with seven road course victories. Elliott is third all-time behind Jeff Gordon with nine and Tony Stewart with eight. He opened at +400 at the sportsbook, where he leads with 16.3 percent of the total winning bets, 42.1 percent of the handle and is BetMGM’s biggest liability this week.
Kevin Harvick (+2800) is currently the first driver out of a playoff spot, 83 points behind Martin Truex Jr. (+1800). Realistically, Harvick and those below him in the playoff standings will have to win one of the next five races to qualify for the postseason. He is second at BetMGM with 6.1 percent of the bets backing him.
Allmendinger (+1800) is competing for the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship this season, but he’ll defend his victory — the first in the series for Kaulig Racing — in Sunday’s event. “Being a part of Kaulig Racing’s first Cup Series win will always be so special to me,” Allmendinger said. “Heading back to Indy for the first time since then will be a surreal feeling. This is a place we have had circled on our calendar, and hopefully all the hard work will pay off.”
Ty Gibbs (+4000) will substitute for Kurt Busch in the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota for the second consecutive week. Busch suffered concussion-like symptoms after a crash during qualifying last Saturday at Pocono and has not been cleared medically to drive.
Ross Chastain opened at +800 but saw his odds shorten to +700 while being backed by 5.1 percent of the bets and 3.8 percent of the handle.
Kyle Larson has the second shortest odds at +700 and is third at BetMGM with 5.1 percent of the total bets backing him to win.
Bubba Wallace remains a popular driver and is the sportsbook’s second biggest liability this week. He opened at +25000 and has seen his odds lengthen to +30000 while drawing 2.6 percent of the winning bets.
William Byron is BetMGM’s third biggest pre-race liability. He is being supported by 7.9 percent of the handle while seeing his odds shorten to +2200 after opening at +2800.
–Field Level Media (NASCAR NewsWire contributed to this story)