Summer Bedgood · Monday July 29, 2013
I make no secret of the fact that I think Indianapolis produces some of the worst racing on the schedule. I mentioned it several times over the past week that going to the Brickyard was something I was less than enthused about.
It turns out, my low expectations were to be met. Both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series put equally races that constituted mindless drivel and had very few storylines other than a couple of late race twists that at least made the finish watchable. Kyle Busch’s near-loss in the Nationwide Series was exhilarating when it looked like series regular Brian Scott might steal the victory, and the late race pitstop malfunction for Jimmie Johnson and company in the sprint Cup Series provided a plot twist that I don’t think anyone genuinely expected. Though Johnson, Chad Knaus, and the team are all human, it’s very rare that they make such crucial mistakes.
The maple syrup racing wouldn’t have been such a tremendous letdown, however, if not for one thing: Eldora. The first dirt race in 43 years of NASCAR history, and the first ever for the Camping World Truck Series, was an absolute success. Side-by-side racing was a part of the event from the first lap of the first heat race to the checkered flag of the feature. Not a dull moment was to be found as the gigantic trucks slid around the slick dirt in the Eldora countryside. It was fantastic.
And a perfect example of why Indianapolis just isn’t the answer for NASCAR when it comes to putting on a good show.
But don’t take it from me. Let’s let Carl Edwards explain:
“My opinion is that we saw it Wednesday night,” said Edwards after a frustrating run at Indianapolis. “If you are not racing aerodynamic devices and the tire and track can interact so that the car can slide around a little more I think you will see more side by side racing. I have been preaching that a long time. I am not an aerodynamicist, that is just what I see.”
I see it too. I also see that Indianapolis doesn’t provide even a quarter of the quality of racing that Eldora, or other short tracks, do. In fact, the quality is sorely lacking.
I’m not alone in my thinking. Speaking to several fans leading up to this very historic event, they felt the same way. The prestige of Indianapolis cannot be denied. However, the quality of racing certainly can.
In most cases, however, the racing lives up to the hype. The Daytona 500 is almost always an incredibly exciting race (2013 notwithstanding), and that race is built up for weeks. The Bristol night race was heralded as the “go-to” race of the season for years, and only until the repave some years ago did it stop living up to that expectation. Martinsville, Talladega, and Darlington all receive rave reviews before the green flag even falls and rarely do high expectations fail to be met. .
But Indianapolis? Despite its presence on the NASCAR schedule as a “crown jewel” event, its racing is anything but. A flat, long racetrack does not produce the same racing that high-banked shorter racetracks do. In fact, the racing it produces is even less exciting than the mile-and-a-half racetracks.
Track position is at a premium, which means passing is at a minimum. Pit road is a driver’s best place to advance his position, and restarts must be taken advantage of as soon as the green flag flies. Tires mean little, even less so in the last several years since Goodyear is still gun shy about a tire debacle back in 2007. The aerodynamics of this car make it tough to pass as it is, but the design of the racetrack doesn’t help matters.
The truth is that Indianapolis was just not built to accommodate stock cars. The almost zero banking track is more flattering to open wheel racecars, though I personally don’t quite understand the appeal there either.
The truth is, it’s just not the best racetrack.
So what is my point here? Am I suggesting that we get rid of Indianapolis? Remove it from the schedule completely?
Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Just scroll back through the last three years of Brickyard winners and look at their faces. Then look at their crew members. Read the transcripts from the post-race interviews or find the videos on YouTube. Think back to the last few days and listen to the drivers talk about the prestige of the racetrack, what it would mean to the win there, and what it already does to the drivers who have.
Then try and tell them that Indianapolis needs to be taken from the schedule. Try and tell those teams choking back tears and kissing the bricks that they can no longer enjoy those moments. Tell them that Indianapolis isn’t important.
The truth is, the sentimentality seems to outweigh reality on this one. The history is overshadowing the lack of quality racing, and the prestige changes the perspective.
Let’s explore a hypothetical situation here briefly. I’m sure most of you watched the Nationwide Series race on Saturday. If you didn’t, it was probably because you thought it would suck. And it did. And Kyle Busch won, which I’m sure you expected. But there was a moment after the race that I couldn’t help but smile at, despite my misgivings about having wasted an afternoon watching the race.
When Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, was interviewed atop the team’s pit box during the cool-down lap and Busch’s subsequent burnout on the frontstretch, he was choking back tears. Barely containing himself, he expressed his genuine enthusiasm for winning at a racetrack that meant so much to him.
Now tell me that Stevens would have been emotional at Lucas Oil Raceway, the little short track that so many fans were asking NASCAR to return to during Saturday’s glorified parade. Do you think he would have been as emotional and excited had they won at a race that was much more exciting but at a track much less glorified?
You can’t honestly tell me that you think that would be the case. It just wouldn’t have been the same.
And, friends, I’m not quite sure I want to lose those moments. While I want to see exciting racing as much as any of you do, I also like to see emotion. I like seeing teams reach “that moment” in their career where it all comes together and dreams come true.
Dreams come true at Indianapolis.
At LOR, not so much.
I know many of you will disagree that the emotion of an event transcends the quality of the product, and I’m not even sure I’m 100% on board.
What I do know is that it’s very hard to say that I want to completely get rid of moments like Indianapolis despite the fact that the racing is subpar. Indy is special and will be remembered in the record books long after LOR is forgotten. Drivers may not remember every race they ever won, but Indianapolis will be forever seared in their memory.
Indianapolis, in a way, is much like a trashy reality show. Despite the fact that quality of the show is lacking, you can’t help but look away because of the emotional and sentimental context surrounding it.
And, despite all that, we keep coming back.
So, I’ve decided to give in and accept the Brickyard’s longevity. It is here to stay for one of the worst reasons: sentimentality. And maybe, just maybe, it deserves that much.
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