August 2019: Inside the Garage, Are NASCAR and The Brickyard Heading Towards a Divorce

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN — August 31, 2019

It seems the last couple of years, every time the NASCAR Circuit rolls into Indianapolis, the talk of dropping the Brickyard from the schedule surfaces. The overhaul of the 2020 Cup Series schedule is just a precursor to the changes 2021 may produce as track contracts come up for renewal.

It is true, since the 2008 tire disaster race, crowd enthusiasm for the Brickyard event has dwindled. Last year Mother Nature created a disaster of her own with three consecutive days of rain pushing both the Xfinity and Cup races to Monday. A small crowd of fans, that skipped work, showed up on a cool and cloudy day to watch the doubleheader.

Personally, I would hate to see Indy dropped from the schedule, my opinion is that it will remain a part of Cup Series and here’s why.

The Brickyard is Important to NASCAR

You need to look no further than the 2020 schedule to see how important the Brickyard is to NASCAR. International Speedway Corp. the racetrack ownership arm of NASCAR gave up their traditional July 4th weekend spot on the schedule allowing the most famous racetrack in America, and arguably the world, to now host races on two major patriotic holiday weekends.

Indy on the schedule as the final race of the regular season was, in itself, a premier spot for a racetrack. It could be said that last year, in addition to the weather, fans had not entirely warmed up to the new playoff format. That seems to be changing as Darlington just announced a sell-out for their race.

NASCAR’s 2018 Cup Series Playoff Drivers / Lasco Press Photo

If this year’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard draws a good crowd, it may be an indication the lagging attendance figures can be turned around.

NASCAR is Important to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The NASCAR race weekend provides the speedway with a 2nd marquee race each year. While the Indianapolis 500 used to be a month-long event, that has diminished somewhat down to the qualifying weekend and the race.

The Yard of Bricks at Indy / Lasco Press Photo

Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not need another failure. The short-lived Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix, with its own tire controversy, left the speedway with somewhat of a black eye on the world racing stage. To lose the biggest racing series in America would be another blow to the track that needs major events to fund its massive complex.

A Change From Oval to Road Course is Not the Answer

Some have suggested that making the Brickyard a road course event on NASCAR’s schedule is the answer to the attendance problems. Sightlines are already a problem at Indy. NASCAR fans are used to buying a grandstand seat and with few exceptions being able to see the entire track from a seat with a view of pit road included. Such is not the case at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the best seat at the top of the grandstand only provides a view of less than half of the racing surface.

While an Indy road course race might make for great TV, the track is already an important part of the television package NASCAR sells to the networks. Are NASCAR fans going to move from the grandstands to a more constricted view in the infield? Sounds like a tough sell to me.

The tri-oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway lends itself to a great layout for the beginning and end of laps around the Roval that also employs a visible section of the infield. Indy’s long straightaway and pit road wall are not going to accommodate a chicane or slam-bang finish like we saw at Charlotte last fall.

The front stretch and pit road at Indy / Lasco Press Photo

Here’s to a Great Event in 2019

Hopefully, no hurricane remnants threaten the race this year and the tight playoff competition is a compelling reason for fans to check out the final race of the regular season. Plus, the new competition package is likely to produce a more competitive race and the type of action NASCAR fans love.

If everything combines into a great crowd on September 8th, maybe this talk of divorce can finally be put to rest.