The Indy Road Course ratings were down from the Brickyard 400, and the ending wasn’t a great look for NASCAR. What does the future look like at that venue for the series? – Griffin P., Indianapolis, Ind.
Talk about a loaded question … but one that’s topical.
Per Adam Stern, last year’s Brickyard 400 on the oval had over four million viewers while this weekend’s Verizon 200 at The Brickyard had just shy of two million.
➖ This year's race, which started hours earlier than 2020 Brickyard 400, was still the highest-rated sport event of the weekend. pic.twitter.com/wmJKJls9bu
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) August 17, 2021
Some of that can be attributed to the earlier start time (1 p.m. ET) and some can be attributed to a large portion of the fanbase’s dismay for racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course instead of the oval. But most people would probably agree that up until the curb wreaked havoc, the race itself really wasn’t that bad.
You know what's crazy too? Up until the wreck and curbing issue that started the whole mess, this race really wasn't that bad at all.
I'll even say it was… *wait for it* good! Just a shame the ending has been the way it is. Was a fine day and race before it went haywire.
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) August 15, 2021
Conventional wisdom suggests the race will return to the road course next season after some much-needed improvements to the curbing in turns 5-6. IMS track president Doug Boles and NASCAR’s Scott Miller have suggested as much moving forward, and Joey Logano wants to get rid of the turn(s) entirely.
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) August 17, 2021
But to answer your question, Griffin, the future looks like what we saw Sunday (Aug. 15): racing on the road course. NASCAR has shown the direction they’re going in the future is turning right and left, the Next Gen car has been built with road/street courses in mind and with as historic of a place as IMS is, the premier North American motorsports series can’t afford to not go there.
It’s everybody’s dream to go back to IRP (Lucas Oil Raceway) or perhaps run a doubleheader on the IMS oval and the road course, with the latter being entirely more plausible. But Saturday races don’t do as well as Sunday late afternoon, so the concept of doubleheaders may not come to fruition as often as it could (keep it, Pocono Raceway, it works). Plus, the logistical hurdles to overcome with transforming the venue from a road course back to the oval may take more than just a few hours, making the situation less plausible.
Whether you liked what you saw (before the curb chaos) at the road course or you’re an oval supporter through and through, I’d get ready for a lot more of road course brick kissing.
Is AJ Allmendinger‘s win a sign of things to come for Kaulig Racing next year? – Chris C., Annapolis, Md.
Don’t get me wrong: Kaulig Racing will be here for years to come, probably win races and championships and cement themselves as a staple organization in the NASCAR Cup Series.
But to say next year will be a playoff-type season for the current part-time outfit is a bit ambitious. On one hand, the Next Gen car (and Kaulig’s close connection with Richard Childress Racing, which has been leading the development of the Next Gen car) could give them an upper hand.
Their full-time driver Justin Haley is clearly Cup ready after a few years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (heck, he’s already a Cup winner), and their other car will have Indy RC winner Allmendinger at the controls on a part-time basis. He just proved he can win and run with the best of the best on specific track types.
On the other hand, though, Haley’s win was, well, lucky, Allmendinger won’t be in the car full-time next year and going from a partial schedule to a full-time outfit is no easy task. There’s a reason why most teams don’t win as early as Kaulig did (second-quickest team to do so in NASCAR history).
To say wins, be it on ovals or road courses, for a team in their first year of full-time existence will be the norm is a stretch. While Kaulig may contend for a playoff spot and score some top-10 finishes here and there, Haley, along with the team, will take their lumps more times than not in 2022.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.