In about a week’s time, the Sprint Cup Series will take to the track in arguably its second most prestigious race of the year, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, losing out only to the Daytona 500. The Brickyard doesn’t have nearly the NASCAR history that Daytona has, but because Indianapolis is the world’s first “Speedway” created in 1909 and that it is the largest sporting facility in the world (seating wise at least), this race is often held in high regard and is at the top of most driver’s lists of races to win.
However, NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced last year that there would be changes to NASCAR’s schedule at the track. Ever since the inaugural NASCAR race at Indy in 1994, the weekend was solely for Sprint Cup competition, making it one of the very few weekends when one of NASCAR’s lower series doesn’t also race at the same track. But starting this year, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will race on Saturday at Brickyard, one day before the Sprint Cup will.
The Speedway has dubbed this upcoming weekend as, “The Super Weekend at the Brickyard”, but to me this seems to be an unnecessary move by NASCAR that hurts the sport more than helps.
This “Super Weekend” was created to fight low attendance figures at the Brickyard since 2008, which was of course, the great tire debacle where cars could only run about ten laps or so before their tires burst apart. The racing that day was, needless to say embarrassing and the fans made it known. For the following three years, stands were noticeably bare, a far cry from the typical sellouts that were common for the track.
Growing up in Indiana and being a big follower of all professional sports in Indianapolis, this decrease in attendance didn’t shock me whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if it’s racing at the Brickyard, the Colts, or the Pacers; Indiana sports fans are devoted followers, far from fair weather fans. When the teams are performing well, stadiums are packed, when the teams are at their lowest, the fans are still there to support them. And when something that disgraces a team occurs, the fans let it be known.
The best example of this occurred after the Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004. The scene created from that put so much negative light on the Pacers that even though they were a playoff team, fans refused to go to their games and identify with a team that embarrassed them on a national level. The same reaction happened from Indy race fans after the tire debacle of ‘08. It was an embarrassing scene and fans refused to support such racing. But once some time passes, the fans always come back around. The Pacers attendance is starting to climb back up and even with the Colts being down, they still sold a majority of their season tickets. If the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would have been patient for another season or two, I’m positive attendance would’ve started to climb again on its own, instead of having to pull drastic measures such as this “Super Weekend”.
The addition of the Nationwide Series to the Brickyard not only brings down the prestige of the track, but it also kills a fellow Indianapolis track.
The Brickyard is a place known for producing only the finest winners and that is evidenced in NASCAR’s time there. Names like Earnhardt, Gordon, and Johnson are some of the few who have won at this storied track. Arguably, the only winner who doesn’t seem worthy to have won at Indy was Paul Menard last year, but even he held off Indy great Jeff Gordon to win. Bringing the Nationwide Series to this storied track just seems to bring down the honor of entering victory lane there. Next Saturday, more than likely a young driver who is still proving himself will pull into that historic victory lane and it just doesn’t seem right.
The move also cripples Lucas Oil Raceway on the west side of Indy, a short track known for great racing. This track used to hold Nationwide and Camping World Truck races on the same weekend when the Sprint Cup was at the Brickyard, making for two different forms of racing in one weekend. But now that the Nationwide Series left for the Brickyard, Lucas Oil Raceway loses that race, as well as the Truck race, which kills the track financially. I hope they’re able to continue on because that is a great track that didn’t deserve to be shut down like this.
I understand NASCAR’s move to bring attendance back with this strategy, but it just creates more negatives than positives. The “Super Weekend” just doesn’t seem so super to me.