Everything you need to know for Sunday’s race, the 24th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season.


Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, a 2.439-mile circuit located in Speedway, Indiana
Practice: Martin Truex Jr. tops the session
Qualifying:
Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET on CNBC and NBC Sports App
Green flag: 1:13 p.m. ET
TV/Radio: NBC/NBC Sports App, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80 degrees. East northeast wind six to nine mph, according to NOAA.gov
Grand Marshal: Mike Ruhnke, vice president of enterprise sales, Verizon
Race Distance: 82 laps, 200 miles
Stages: 15 | 35 | 82
Pit-road speed: 40 mph
Caution car speed: 45 mph
Indy Road Course 101: Get the full lowdown
Entry list: See who’s in the field
Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit-road challenges

Jamie Squire | Getty Images

Five to watch

Here are five big story lines we’ll be following at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course: 

1. Is anything more exhilarating right now than the battle atop the Cup Series regular-season standings? Kyle Larson pulled even with long-time points leader Denny Hamlin after winning at Watkins Glen International last weekend. But despite zero wins in 2021, the No. 11 wheelman impressively manages to remain a regular-season championship contender. His consistency has gotten him this far, but with only three races remaining, he almost certainly needs more to quell Larson’s blistering pace. Following Sunday’s race at Indy, it’s a two-race shootout to end the regular season — Michigan International Speedway (Larson should be favored here) and Daytona International Speedway (Hamlin should be favored here). Fifteen playoff points are on the line, along with another trophy for the case. Deadlocked at 917 points each, it will be very important to see how the situation shakes out this weekend.

2. Adding to the playoff story line, it’s still unbelievable to see 58-time Cup winner Kevin Harvick locked in the bubble battle with others vying for a bid into the Round of 16. While pretty safe (for now), the last thing Harvick needs is a new 2021 winner this weekend with Daytona’s unpredictability looming large. Likewise, Richard Childress Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon are in a friendly slugfest to be the last one in. Reddick has fared better than his counterpart on road courses throughout his career so far and needs another solid performance to build on his 15-point cushion. But heading to a brand new track this weekend and based on Dillon’s past success at Daytona, this battle is still anyone’s game. Still, keep an eye out for the underdogs who could still have their say. See the full playoff outlook here.

3. After last Sunday’s dust-up at The Glen between Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, could we see more tension this weekend? Both drivers perform exceptionally well at road courses and are trending in a positive direction heading into the playoffs. So it’s highly likely that they will be together at the front of the pack at some point during the Indy race. Will push lead to shoving? It’s entirely possible we see their dirt-track rivalry make its first real appearance on asphalt.

4. Don’t forget about the great season Martin Truex Jr. is having. With three wins and sitting second in the projected playoff standings, his overall body of work is as good as almost anyone. Somewhat hidden in the shadow of the road-course dominance by Hendrick Motorsports’ Larson and Chase Elliott is Truex’s stellar road-course resume. Truex Jr. has eight top 10s in the last 10 road races (including third place in two of the last three) and three wins in the last 14. A victory lap around Indianapolis could certainly be in the cards for the No. 19 team.

5. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course is the fifth new track on the NASCAR Cup schedule so far this season — Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt, Circuit of The Americas, Nashville Superspeedway and Road America are the others. To this point, Chase Elliott is the only driver with multiple wins at the new venues, unsurprisingly winning at COTA and Road America. Could the defending Cup Series champion continue the trend this weekend? We already know he’s especially gifted at road courses and has the stats to back it up. He’s won at six of the last nine road courses and has four consecutive top-two finishes. Another road-course win would pull him even with Tony Stewart at eight and one away from tying Jeff Gordon’s all-time record of nine. Not bad to already be mentioned alongside two NASCAR Hall of Famers, huh?

Truex Com Powerrankings Hero 922x510Race-day staples

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

Power Rankings: Truex set for a breakthrough? | Scope the ranks
Paint Scheme Preview: Check out the Brickyard paint | See the schemes
Fantasy Fastlane: See which drivers to use, avoid | Full Fantasy advice | Set your roster
Preview Show: Jonathan Merryman and Alex Weaver preview the race | Watch the show

Get in on the action

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

Betting odds for Indianapolis | See the odds
Indy betting: Larson closing the gap to Elliott | Find out why
Trouble brewing for Team Penske with long odds at Indy? | Read more
Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot
Full guide to 2021 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ

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Learn the new track

It’s NASCAR’s inaugural weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Get familiar with the track.

14 turns: Turn-by-turn breakdown of the course | Learn every corner
• Around we go: Take a lap around the track with Austin Cindric | See every corner
• Down a narrow road: Pitting here is tougher than you think | Hear why
• An old timer’s tale: The magic behind kissing the bricks | See the history

Fast facts

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

• Sunday’s race marks the 137th road-course race in NASCAR Cup Series history.
• All three manufacturers — Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota — have at least five wins this season. Chevrolet has the most with 12.
• The last nine road-course races have been won by drivers under the age of 30.
• Kyle Larson has won two races in 2021 from the pole position, making him the only driver to win from the starting spot this season.
• Kurt Busch has four finishes of sixth or better at the last six races on road courses, including three finishes of fourth.

Catch the pack

Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Same venue, same meaning: Joey Logano says ‘everyone’ wants to win at Indy | Read more
• A heartfelt tribute:
Remembering longtime broadcaster Bob Jenkins  | See the tribute
• Double duty:
Kyle Larson starting third at Knoxville Nationals | Read more
• Homecoming:
Family memories ride with Austin Cindric into Indy Road Course weekend | Read more
• Special scheme:
Martin Truex Jr. supporting awareness at Indy | See how

Say what?

The best quotes from big names in the sport heading into this weekend’s race.

“There is just a different vibe at Indianapolis – the history, the fans, the facility. I think it’ll be cool to run the road course layout this weekend and we all want to say we won the inaugural event. With my racing (in Iowa) this week, I’ll be watching a lot of tape of other series on the road course layout to familiarize myself with it ahead of practice on Saturday.” — Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 29: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Camping World Chevrolet, walks the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

“The biggest focus, honestly, has been the change to the race track and trying to be ready to go and run the road course. It will obviously be my first race at the speedway as a crew chief, so I’ll try to definitely take care of my family and make sure they all have the opportunity to go. I made it pretty clear to all of them, but the task at hand is the race and I’m gonna be pretty into that.  They can go to the race and have a good time, but I’m all business for the weekend.” — Jonathan Hassler, crew chief of the No. 21 Ford Mustang of Matt DiBenedetto

“I love Indianapolis no matter what shape it is in. Whether it’s an oval or a road course, whether it’s in an IndyCar or a stock car. I love going there and seeing so much history. It’s funny, the oval at Indianapolis in a Cup car is like racing on a road course. So now we will be racing on the road course. I love that we are adding more and more road courses. There are a lot of fans that love road course racing and it’s adding different markets. As for us at Trackhouse Racing, every time we get an opportunity to turn left and right we are better. We get another chance this weekend in Indianapolis.”  — Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet

“I’ve got a lot of homework to do this week to get prepared and be ready for practice on Saturday there. It will be fun. It’s always exciting to go to new tracks and I like road courses as well so it should be good.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on going to the Indy Road Course for the first time.