One of the under the radar moments from the 2023 NASCAR schedule release was that the Brickyard 400 could be returning in the future. Ben Kennedy was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday evening and made mention of the fact.
Kennedy noted that while the IMS road course has been a great addition, they’ve not closed the door on a return to the oval either. I’ve been hearing over the past year that they’ll eventually do a revolving road course/oval contract. Maybe do the road course for 2-3 years, then do the oval, then do the road course another 2-3 years, back to the oval, and so on.
This news comes on the heels of several drivers having made mention that the new Next Gen race car would improve the racing on the 2.5-mile famed oval. A lot were very vocal about this topic back in July.
“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 the Verizon 200, 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.