The Frontstretch: Say No to the Brickyard by Bryan Davis Keith -- Thursday June 16, 2011

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Say No to the Brickyard

Nuts for Nationwide · Bryan Davis Keith · Thursday June 16, 2011


It’s back. The Indianapolis Star is reporting that while talks have primarily centered around bringing a Grand-Am race to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, talk has also sparked about moving the Nationwide Series race currently run the evening before the Brickyard 400 on the IRP short track to the big track itself. With attendance on the wane at the famed speedway, track executives are reportedly considering means to increase revenues, as well as Sunday attendance, for a date that until less than 20 years ago was a pipe dream for stock car racers.

At first glance, it seems like a dream scenario. Short of Daytona, there isn’t a track in the United States that can hope to rival the prestige and history of the original superspeedway. There isn’t a racer alive that would turn down the chance to take to the Brickyard.

But heritage alone does not make the case for a race date (at least not in NASCAR’s eyes, if that was the case there would still be racing at Rockingham). And in this case, the history of Indy should not be enough on its own to justify moving a race date from Lucas Oil Raceway, a venue that continually puts on one of the most competitive races all levels of NASCAR see over the course of the season.

Side-by-side racing is the norm, not the exception, at Lucas Oil Raceway, which begs the question why any case is being made to remove its Nationwide Series race date.

Because for all that history, there’s one point that is continually ignored…that history is not NASCAR’s history. Sure, the Indianapolis 500 is arguably the most significant race in American motorsports. And yes, it was a truly historic occurrence, a shift in the paradigm of racing in the US, when Bill France Jr. and a thriving NASCAR was able to unlock the doors to open-wheel racing’s holy grail and bring Cup racing to Indianapolis back in 1994.

That same significance will no longer be there should the Nationwide Series end up tackling IMS. Fact is, stock cars have now taken to Indianapolis for the better part of two decades. It’s been done. And once the prestige of the track itself wears off, the inconvenient truth is that the on-track product seen at Indy has been sorely lacking. A lack of banking in the corners makes side-by-side racing extremely difficult for the heavier stock cars, and no one that sat through it in the stands or at home will ever forget the tire debacle of 2008, one that saw Goodyear Eagles failing after scarcely 10 laps of racing and that reduced the Brickyard 400 to a three-quarter speed parade. The tires have since been fixed, but the racing seen at IMS still can’t hope to hold a candle to the three-wide action that Lucas Oil Raceway provides from green flag to checkers.

Seriously, put the shoe on the other foot. Would it really be that big a deal if the Indy Lights Series suddenly decided they were going to tackle Daytona? And in that case, it wouldn’t even be a matter of a venue that continually puts on tremendous racing being replaced by a larger venue that, while of historical significance, would be an example of the track being the story instead of the pack.

The annual short track event at Lucas Oil Raceway is one of the few remaining standalone races the Nationwide Series contests in a season. It’s one of only a few short track races contested annually on any of NASCAR’s top three national circuits. And the on-track product at the venue has spoken for itself. There is no reason to allow motorsports lore to distort what is going on here; this is yet another possible example of NASCAR dumping a short track for a superspeedway and its amenites.

Never mind that Indy is a completely unique configuration of a track that already poses nightmare challenges to those without Cup affiliations; an inability to compensate for a lack of horsepower under the hood; a premium placed on aerodynamics. And never mind that this is NASCAR we’re talking about. Face it, a Nationwide Series race at IMS is a dream scenario for them…because it means a glorified tire test the day before the big show at the big track.

With the COT cars across the Nationwide and Cup Series now remarkably similar in terms of chassis and aero, there’s much to be learned running Saturday to guesstimate just how those tires will handle the track on Sunday.

And the Nationwide Series deserves better than to yet again be reminded that, for all its stories and up-and-comers, that it has been reduced to “Cup lite.”

Race fans get a stern reminder of that 26 times a season. There’s no reason to make it 27. Even if it is the Brickyard.

Contact Bryan Davis Keith

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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06/17/2011 06:36 AM

I agree fully with you, Brian. But after hearing Robin Miller talk on this topic, I am afraid it’s all but a done deal. Seeing 15,000 people in the stands at IMS and IRP dark on Saturday will be sad. And once again, the actual racing will be poorer for the France & George familys’ greed.

Bill B
06/17/2011 07:29 AM

If anything the debate should be about moving the cup race to IRP. Even though I like seeing them go to Indy once a year. It’s cool even if the race is less than spectacular.

don mei
06/17/2011 07:41 AM

Lets do the road course at Indy…might cut back on the boredom.

06/17/2011 10:54 AM

I would agree with the doing the road course… I saw reports of this on NASCAR Now or something the other day and my first thought was NOOOO. I have so little faith left in NASCAR as a sanctioning body its ridiculous. This is just another example of them caring more about themselves than the product. When will they learn that IF YOU IMPROVE THE RACING, YOU’LL GET MORE PEOPLE TO WATCH AND COME TO THE RACES. Going to a 2.5 mile aero dependent open wheel course that year after year offers mediocre and subpar Cup racing from a short track that is regularly awesome WILL NOT MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO WATCH. They’ll watch the first one for novelty, watch a race with 4 passes in 3 hours and not watch again next year. I love the fact that Cup series races at Indy and I love watching that race every year. It is not because the competition is great, and I will not feel the same if they move NW race there.

06/17/2011 11:11 AM

Bill B-
Spot on.

Alternatively, give the Brickyard the axe. There’s better Cup racing at Chicagoland, Michigan, and now Kentucky (I know, we haven’t seen it yet, but it can’t possibly be worse than the NASCAR at Indy experiment). Let someone else have a race date. (And let that someone be Rockingham.)

Sherri T
06/17/2011 11:18 AM

You’ve got to be kidding me! The short track race is much more entertaining than the actual brickyard race! Why fix it if it isn’t broken! Stupid move NASCAR!

06/17/2011 11:36 AM

Really stupid logic. Let’s have a Nationwide race at Indy so fans can see the same drivers at a cheaper rate on Saturday and not show up Sunday.

The NASCAR/Indy experiment had a nice ride, but the event lacks the energy it used to. It’s just another race until the Chase. The race still attracts over 100,000 people, so things aren’t in that bad of shape to make this dumb, knee-jerk move.

Dragging another series into the mess won’t solve anything. It will only leave Nationwide with another companion event and chip off a track that has been part of the series since the 80’s.

06/17/2011 12:09 PM

Run the Nationwide cars at the Brickyard on Saturday and move the Lucas oil Nationwide and Truck race to another weekend it should help the whole region.

06/17/2011 08:32 PM

If it is a stupid idea you can bet it’s from Brian, the marketing genius.

06/20/2011 03:20 PM

I agree with everyone else here. Seeing 20,000 people at Indy will make that race look awful on TV considering Indy holds over 200,000 people.

Just to correct you Brian, that weekend is in fact a companion weekend. A stand alone race to me is in another state far away from the Cup series. Just because its not at the same track, it is still in Indianapolis and will still have a full Cup contingent in the race because the Cup guys will essentially have their motor homes across the street.