The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: The Future of Lucas Oil Raceway by John Potts -- Thursday August 4, 2011

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Potts' Shots: The Future of Lucas Oil Raceway

John Potts · Thursday August 4, 2011

 

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Really can’t attribute a question to anyone specific this week. I’ve gotten a LOT of phone calls, e-mails, etc. from people wanting to know how I feel about NASCAR’s decision to move the Nationwide race from Lucas Oil Raceway to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I’ve touched lightly on this subject once, but just for a sentence or two, and I think the topic deserves its own column. All of those who contacted me assumed, correctly, that I did not look favorably on this decision. That’s putting it mildly. I have to believe a very good friend of mine who covers motorsports for The Indianapolis Star was correct in his question-and-answer blog this week. He said he believes everyone involved in making this decision will come to regret it.

Over and over again, we hear fans and longtime veterans of covering stock car racing bemoan the fact that no more tracks like Bristol, Richmond, Iowa, etc. are being built; just 1.5-milers that don’t provide competition nearly as good as that on the short tracks. Now, NASCAR compounds that situation by taking the racing from one of those ovals with all the action and moving it to one of the most boring venues on the schedule – all in the name of “economics.”

Moving a date from Lucas Oil Raceway to Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not been a fan favorite.

My old pal Rusty Wallace mentioned before the telecast of the Kroger 200 last Saturday that it was a shame to see the race move but, “…the purse is going to be SO much larger.” Unfortunately, that’s proving once again that NASCAR’s “it’s all about the fans” stuff is just that – stuff. It’s all about the money, and they can get more from IMS.

One fan on a discussion board I frequent had a great suggestion this week, saying they would have been better off to suggest the powers-that-be at LOR add 50-60,000 seats and move the Cup race out there. Hmm. I don’t think they’re using the road course that much, anyway. You could put a lot of seats on that backstretch. Some repositioning of billboards might add enough to make that work.

We did try to get a Cup race when NASCAR pulled out of the Nashville Fairgrounds in 1985, but they said they didn’t want to add any short tracks. I suppose this shows that their “forward” thinking was moving away from their roots as much as 26 years ago. I’ve also touched on the subject before that the late Bob Daniels once proposed that we run what was the Busch Series on the oval on Saturday night and the Cup cars on the road course on Sunday.

My colleague Mike Neff stated in a story on this site earlier this week that we shouldn’t worry about Lucas Oil Raceway, because it’s not going away. Now, there was some concern about the oval back in the ’80s while we were building up that Busch race, and Bob said, “If we can’t make the oval pay, it’s going to turn into a Funny Car pit area.” That, of course, was before all the improvements had been made, such as reconfiguring the new grandstand among other changes that led to the track’s continued survival.

Mike noted that the office at LOR is receiving requests for the former Nationwide date from a number of stock car sanctioning bodies, and that’s no surprise. This is something they’ll have to be careful with in the way of scheduling, naturally. Ask ARCA. They ran a race on the mile dirt at the Indiana State Fairgrounds at least once during Brickyard weekend, and, as I recall, it went over like a concrete cloud.

I also think, as Mike seems to, that NASCAR will try to sell LOR on a standalone date for at least a Nationwide race, as he points out that a weekend will be open with the closing of the Nashville Superspeedway. Also, there’s the possibility for a Truck Series date. That might work, but it’ll be just that – work. The race began in 1982 as a standalone date on an off weekend for the Cup Series, and the eventual rise to one of the best races on the schedule was a result of lots of work.

Working with Bob and Eileen Daniels, I put 15 years of my life into nurturing that event, helping it grow and get to that level. Perhaps it’s fitting that this column is being published on Frontstretch.com on Bob’s birthday.

I suppose I could sum it all up by saying that now I feel like one of my kids has been stolen and sold into slavery.

– - – - – - – -

During last Saturday night’s race, did anybody else notice the fact that the green light in the third turn was on when Steve Wallace went past it out of control on lap 175? I’m not talking about the big green light above the pit entrance. Going back through the replays, I found that the smaller light on the outside of the track was, in fact, still green when that No. 66 went by.

At the same time, his spotter was telling him there was a wreck ahead, proving the accident involving Michael Annett and Tim Andrews was seen from the tower.

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old farmer
08/04/2011 11:41 AM
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Since Nashville is now gone, I suggest the powers that be work their tails off to get that date for IRP/LOR.

I’d be there for sure, but I won’t be at IMS.

Kyle
08/04/2011 03:04 PM
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When I read about the Nashville dates being open, my first thought was that LOR should put in for the Nationwide and Truck races to bring NASCAR back to its Indianapolis roots. As you noted, the Nationwide race was at IRP long before the Cup boys ran their first test lap over at IMS. It makes sense for LOR to snatch these dates up for their own glorification! We (IRP) did well without a Cup race in town before the advent of the Brickyard; we can do it again.

And John, thanks for mentioning the still-green light in turn 3 prior to Steven Wallace’s wreck. No one else seems to have noticed, or cared. I’d have ranted about it for ANY driver who was the victim of the track Race Control. No one deserves to be wrecked because the tower isn’t doing their job!

As always, great job of writing and reporting!

John Potts
08/04/2011 03:09 PM
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Thanks, Kyle. For those others reading, Kyle was a member of our medical team at IRP while I was there, and she also frequently handled race control for motorcycle and go-kart races on the road course. Having done that job myself, I can tell you it ain’t easy and the decisions have to be made quickly. And she was GOOD at it.