The Frontstretch: The Brickyard, Despite Its Misgivings, Deserves Its Place On The Schedule by Summer Bedgood -- Monday July 29, 2013

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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.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Summer Bedgood and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

07/29/2013 05:57 AM

Who cares if Stevens got choked up? If winning a Nationwide race at a track that 99% of the world knows best for being an Indycar crown jewel, that’s fine but us fans want good racing, before anything else.

Prestige is fine but try telling yourself that when you’re dozing off a few laps after the restart.

Bill B
07/29/2013 07:12 AM

The race at Indy would be a bearable change of pace if the schedule wasn’t already so full of 1.5 mile tracks which often produce the same lack luster racing.

07/29/2013 07:47 AM

Bedgood (bond girl) who cares about Kyle Busch’s crew chief choking up? Is he really surprised that Kyle won again against lesser funded and lesser experienced drivers? Wooo what an accomplishment. Face it Bond girl the racing absolutely stinks at Indy no matter how you want to spin it. The race gets hyped up by na$car and the booth buffoons because they’re on the payroll. Other than that NOBODY considers it “prestigious” anymore. When the only time someone can pass is during a mad dash restart, well the racing is just not very good. Scrap the ridiculous experiment.

07/29/2013 08:48 AM

I think it’s safe to say that Indy’s time for NASCAR has come and gone. Fans speak with their wallet, and the races at Indy have always been less than stellar. 2008 should have been the final event for cup at the speedway in my opinion.

Carl D.
07/29/2013 03:53 PM

If you’re a Jimmie Johnson fan, then of course you want them to keep the Brickyard on the schedule. It’s one of his best tracks.

07/29/2013 04:11 PM

Let Indy keep there track and Na$car can move on to a good (short) track, oh but wait, the short tracks can’t pay Na$car enough to make it worth racing at those venues. That’s where the good racing is at.

07/29/2013 04:46 PM

Can NA$CAR advertise their “races” as a free cure for insomnia?

07/29/2013 05:26 PM

Of course, since Hendrick does so good at Indy (Top 4, and 6 of 7 top finishers yesterday), and since The Felon is such good friends with The Brainless one, The Brickyard will remain! Plus, the Nationwide race on Saturday was a disgrace! I was so hoping Brian Scott could have punted Busch out of the way and won!

I rather like the idea of moving the Eldora race to one week earlier and moving the races from The brickyard over to Iowa for a triple-head weekend.

Last point, I am willing to bet Edwards will get crucified royally for his comments. And not just money like NA$CAR did to Denny Hamlin. It will be money and enough points to remove Edwards from the top-20! NA$CAR is that ruthless!

07/29/2013 06:41 PM

The race should stay at Indy. As strung out as the racing gets, its still Indy. I’m sure if the race moved it wouldn’t go to an Iowa or another short-track. It would probably go to another 1.5 miler. Maybe NASCAR should study to aero numbers on the current Indy car. Somehow they got those to draft really well now.

07/29/2013 08:00 PM

i couldn’t disagree more with the position of this article. let’s look at this a different way. let’s say you’re a new fan who’s heard of indy and it’s legacy. you swallowed the hype and tuned in to watch that race. are you coming back? methinks probably not. what are the chances that you’ll watch another race? certainly lower than if you watched say… the truck race or nearly ANY other race on the schedule (even chicagoland!) how can the current nascar car at indy possibly be good for the sport? a tack’s storied legacy only carries that story so far when the “product” sucks. how can no passing and boring “racing” resonate with even most of the dedicated regular fans that have stuck around? this is racing at a track who’s rich legacy was made by indy cars. this is like comparing a brick to a rocketship. firing a rocket from the launch pad is a lot more interesting that throwing a brick off of it.
there is no nascar history, tradition or legacy here (other than a very real embarrasment.) nascar can survive and maybe even prosper without indy. heck, even bernie and his fia/f1 circus figured that out after their fiasco (and they couldn’t come close to filling the stands either. the fact that nascar races at indy is yet another great example of what’s currently very very wrong with the current management. they would rather focus on great marketing than fix a once great but now mediocre product. too bad they just happen to own the sport that so many people used to love.
the nascar product at indy might generate a great short term profit but it’s certainly not growing the fan base (or stemming the bleeding.)

07/31/2013 02:02 AM

ummm did kyle’s crew chief actually do anything for the win? Kyle Busch could of won that and many other races without a crew chief at all. So ridic.