“Farewell To Thee, IRP”
Racing at Indianapolis/O’Reilly/Lucas Oil Raceway Park, while not always the most glamorous facility, has long been one of the most popular stops on the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series schedules. Granted, the facility has never been one of the most-highly attended in terms of sheer number, but on television, every one of the 30,000 seats in the facility was always full when NASCAR came to town.
However, 2011 marks the end of an era for the Nationwide and Truck Series, respectively. With the IMS announcement of the “Super Weekend” at the Brickyard for the Nationwide Series to make their debut at the Brickyard, and the subsequent departure of the Truck Series, there is no longer room at the NASCAR inn for Lucas Oil Raceway Park. Lay observers might call this “progress”, but let’s take a dose of reality, race fans, and call this exactly what it is: this is yet another nail in the proverbial coffin and salt in the open wounds of short-track racing.
The loss of Lucas Oil Raceway for long-time followers of NASCAR’s Triple-A and Double-A touring series is just devastating. This is in particular devastating to an already seriously-ill Nationwide Series. Another stand-alone event goes by the way-side for, oh joy, another Cup companion race! The Nationwide Series needed another companion event about as much as the world needs a second Rebecca Black single, and for a series that already has one-third of its entries start and parking and no one able to realistically compete for wins unless they’re a Cup driver or their team is Cup-affiliated, this just another blow it does not need.
It’s not just the Nationwide and Truck Series that will suffer with the loss of Lucas Oil Raceway, but fans will suffer as well. The track has long been one of the most fan-friendly stops on the tour and the close-quarters bumping and banging kept fans coming back year after year. But now that the Nationwide Series is going onto the big track, which has, not just been on a downward spiral since the 2008 “Tire-Gate”, but has perhaps been at least a small part in the overall snowball effect that has bogged NASCAR’s growth down in recent years with attendance at Indy, along with many other facilities, on a downward trend. If the IMS brain-trust thinks a companion week-end is going to be the quick fix for declining attendance, they’re going to be hit with a cold dose of reality by ignoring the fact that, while the track is great for IndyCars, it’s not exactly known as the most conducive track to side-by-side racing on the NASCAR circuit. Add to the bulky nature of the COT, it makes for mostly single-file, train racing.
But after the final NASCAR checkered flag falls on the “Night Before The 400”, fans in the Indianapolis area should try not to dwell too much on the loss of the area short-track. They should focus on the positives of the track: the fan access, the side-by-side racing, the cozy confides, sitting on “The Hill”, so many things that made Lucas Oil Raceway such a quirky little place on the NASCAR touring landscape. While the race festivities will move to the Brickyard, Claremont residents should take pride at the fact their track made for some great memories over the years, whether it was in the Truck Series or the Nationwide Series, it always seemed like Lucas Oil Raceway brought out the best in the drivers in these series. So fret not, loyal fans, and cherish what memories that can be had.
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