INDIANAPOLIS — Last Sunday’s Verizon 200 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway featured an estimated attendance figure of over 60k to witness Tyler Reddick win an exciting race around the 2.439-mile road course. However, all weekend long the talks around the garage was the hopes of returning to the famed 2.5-mile oval instead.
This was the 29th time the NASCAR Cup Series has been coming to IMS but 27 of the 29 were on the oval and just 2 on the road course.
With the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series going back to IRP on Friday night, the nostalgia got people wondering if we’d ever see a Brickyard 400 again?
It’s worked in the past. The Southern 500 was moved from the Labor Day weekend date. That date went to Fontana, then Atlanta before NASCAR wizened up and moved it back to Darlington. NASCAR officials aren’t stubborn. They’ll admit when things that initially were right and were later wronged and aren’t afraid to make it right again.
So, will they do so here?
After the TV numbers were unveiled on Tuesday and as strong as they were, when you have attendance higher this year than last and higher than the last time fans were allowed to watch a race on the oval (2019), I’d say the road course event isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Why make a change when folks have proven this is their preferred layout? If people didn’t show up in person or didn’t tune in on TV, that’s a different story. But when they’re doing both at numbers higher than the oval and doing so in a rise each year from the next, I have a hard time believe NASCAR make any changes here.
There’s been rumors though of Indianapolis starting to host a revolving road course/oval schedule for NASCAR. Maybe ever 3-4 years run the oval. Kind of similar how the city hosts the Final Four every so many years.
For NASCAR, maybe run the road course for 2-3 years, then in Year 4 run the oval and back to the road course for 2-3 more years and so on…
They didn’t deny discussions like that were taking place. However, some drivers don’t think that a change can happen quick enough.
“I love the shared weekend. Look race car drivers like being around race car drivers. I like watching other divisions race I just don’t like racing on a road course,” said 3-time Brickyard 400 champion, Kevin Harvick. “I feel like it’s a parking lot track but doesn’t flow very well. It’s not a very it’s just not a very good course. I mean, it’s not Road America and it’s not Sonoma and it’s not Watkins Glen and it’s, you know, it’s just just not a good track.
“Running on the oval is embarrassing for our series.”
He would know. He won the last two Brickyard 400’s here.
As far as why he’s so outspoken about it?
“What are they gonna find out? I think that’s the best way to do it. Easiest way to do it. I don’t have to. I don’t have to figure out what I said that I didn’t believe.”
What do others feel?
Christopher Bell put it bluntly. He likes the oval. It’s the history and prestige of it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. says it doesn’t feel as much like a special event anymore.
“I mean, it doesn’t feel like it near as much as the oval does,” he says. “You know, I mean, it’s run on the ovals. I mean, just super historic. Right. And, you know, it’s the brickyard 400. So yeah, I mean, it’s it’s like Bristol, right like you want to win at Bristol, whether it’s dirt concrete and you want to win here at Indy whether it’s real course or oval, but the feel of it is not as is not the same.
“So yeah, I still enjoy it though. It’s still cool being here. At the same time you still get to kiss some bricks, right?”
Even race winning owner from Sunday Richard Childress misses the oval and wants it back over his road course win.
“When you drive through the gates, go through the tunnel and you drive through here, just the history, tradition of Indianapolis gives you cold chills the first time I came — well, the first time I jumped the fence but we won’t talk about that,” he says.
“It gives you cold chills when you think about Indianapolis and the history. So yes, I love it. I wish we were back on the oval for sure.”
AJ Allmendinger is great here on the road course and said that even being the inaugural road course winner here last year, it was still special. Was it a Jeff Gordon or Ray Harroun moment? That’s up for debate but he also feels like if you want to run the oval again, fans need to show out.
You can’t come back and no one comes. The crowd was more of an embarrassment for the series on the oval than running on the road course. For a race that used to pack the place, the empty grandstands weren’t appealing.
NASCAR made it clear that they’re going to go to where they’re wanted. If fans don’t show, they won’t come. It has to look visually appealing as a big event.
The massive facility ate up the estimated 50k crowds in the final years of the oval. A similar crowd on the road course doesn’t look as bad and keeps Indy as a date on the NASCAR calendar.
By revolving the road course and oval as a rotating system, it could spice up the oval crowd. If you don’t show, you won’t see it for a few more years….
However, I wonder now after these numbers if any changes would even come.