The mood around Raceway Park this weekend was understandably muted considering most everyone in attendance was of the opinion that this would be the last time they’d see the Camping World Trucks and the Nationwide series at the venue. While it is true that the two series will not be returning to race on this specific weekend in the future, there have been talks of setting up a different weekend in the season. It is also true that there will still be racing at Lucas Oil Raceway next year during the Brickyard weekend, it is just not set at this point what races will be taking place. It is certainly sad to see the Truck and Nationwide cars bid adieu to the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway, but don’t give up on the track. Regardless of whether it hosts the two series, it will be back next year putting on another good show no matter what kind of cars are on the track.
The rumors had been circulating for several years that Nationwide would leave Raceway Park but nothing had come of them until this year the story with the announcement that the Nationwide cars will compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway starting in 2012. Once the word came out that the move was official, General Manager Wes Collier was inundated with phone calls and emails–and they haven’t stopped yet. There are numerous sanctioning bodies who would love to have their cars on the surface of LOR for the Brickyard weekend next season. Collier has not reached an agreement with any of them yet because he was focused on getting this weekend in the books and putting on a great show for the fans. Now that the weekend has finished, Collier will begin negotiating with any number of sanctioning bodies to plan out who will be on the track next year for the Kroger Speedfest, assuming Kroger continues to sponsor the event.
The sentiment echoed by just about every competitor who climbed behind the wheel at LOR this weekend was that the track is a great place to race. And they’re also interested to see whether the folks at NASCAR can see the benefits of racing at the short track and bring the Trucks and Nationwide back on a different weekend during the year. While fans were bemoaning the loss of both series several people noted that the Truck Series never stated they were going anywhere. Most of the Truck drivers who spoke with Frontstretch voiced the opinion that they were confident the Trucks would be able to run a stand alone event and have plenty of fans show up to see the great racing. Emotions are obviously a little raw right now after 30 years of hosting the Nationwide series but cooler heads will prevail and that will hopefully mean that at least the Trucks can have a weekend at LOR next season.
Raceway Park has been an important race track in the development of many different drivers in the history of auto racing. The Thursday Night Thunder Series that used to be live on ESPN is coming back to the track this year and will hopefully get some time on television again. There are many different racing series in the U.S. that would love to have the chance to run at Raceway Park and whoever Collier decides to bring in for next year’s Speedfest will undoubtedly put on a great show for the Indianapolis fans.
The folks from ARCA came back to LOR for the first time in 25 years this past weekend and put on a fantastic show. The USAR Pro Cup series is really trying to reestablish itself as a relevant racing series and a showcase weekend in Indianapolis would go a long way in restoring the Pro Cup series in the minds of race fans. The ASA has a couple of different series that would have the potential to put on a show for fans and the history of that sport would certainly enhance their offering. The CRA series already runs at tracks throughout the Midwest and includes some drivers whose names are already familiar to stock car racing fans. The PASS series would also offer a great menu of racing for LORI with both their Super Late Models and Modified divisions. The possibilities, while not endless, are surely numerous for Raceway Park and whichever option they choose will offer some great racing for the fans who have been so dedicated to the track for years.
Losing the Trucks and Nationwide is certainly a sad development for the Brickyard weekend but it is not the death knell for Raceway Park. The track has hosted thousands of races and has one great factor working in its favor–the racing is tremendous. Unlike Martinsville, where there is one predominant groove to get through the corners and the only real way to get around someone is to bump them out of the way, LOR offers grooves from the bottom to the top and drivers can utilize any of them to make their car work better and to pass cars rather than move them out of the way. It is a short track for sure, and there is close quarter racing with some contact being unavoidable, but the races are not demolition derbies and drivers who learn to race there learn to set up cars and execute passes rather than running over the top of them.
Raceway Park has been running races since 1960 and hosting events on the oval track since 1961. They’ve seen the likes of AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman turn laps in anger to the delight of fans. Sanctioning bodies have come and gone and the venerable track has persevered through all of the changes to continue putting on some of the best racing events anywhere. Tracks that offer great racing tend to attract people who like to race and LOR most definitely provides great racing.
Whatever Wes Collier and his folks decide to do next year will undoubtedly be a great show for fans so don’t start shoveling dirt over Raceway Park just yet. She’s held her own for 50 years and will figure out a way to keep on doing it without the NASCAR national touring series if she has to.
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