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Pedley: Super Weekend Creates Some Sadness

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 7 2011

Kyle Busch celebrates with the O'Reilly Raceway Park crowd after winning the Kroger 200 Nationwide race two years ago. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

As a race fan, I’m happy about Wednesday’s announcement that the Sprint Cup weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will become a quadruple-header in 2012. As a Race Fan, I’m saddened by the announcement.

The announcement, of course, was that the Nationwide Series race which has tradtionally been held at quaint, intimate Lucas Oil Raceway Park (formerly O’Reilly Raceway Park, formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) in Clermont, was being moved to the big speedway.

Also, that the Grand-Am Sports Car Series and the accompanying Continental Tire Challenge series for sports cars would hold events in the infield road course at IMS as part of the Super Weekend at the Brickyard.

Yes, pretty cool to have all that racing at one track on one weekend. Especially the sports car racing part of the news. It will be good for Grand-Am and it will be good for its fans as the series now has a second marquee event on its schedule.

And, hey, four days of on-track action and three days of racing in Indy? Very cool.

But, the announcement is also concerning.

Especially for long time fans of the Nationwide Series and especially especially for those who love Raceway Park.

The Nationwide race at IRP – then ORP and now LORP I suppose – had become a welcome throwback for Midwestern racing fans. It’s a short, energized, funky little track plopped down in a ‘burb that is less a ‘burb than an Indiana small town in look and feel.

Until recently, when local roadway expansion blossomed up in the area, you had to go
through quaint little Clermont to get to the place. Traffic was a pleasant pain as locals

NASCAR president Mike Helton and drivers Rickey Stenhouse Jr. and Carl Edwards at Wednesday's Super Weekend announcement. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

would squat down into outdoor furniture to watch the lines of cars snake their way past their homes and yards and out toward the track.

In mid summer, there always seemed to be a haze of humidity and dust which settled over area and turned the sun orange as the lines of cars coursed through the town. It always seemed hot and gritty.

It was very Mellencamp. It was ‘50s. It was swell.

Now, it moves over to the the biggest oval track in the world. And another concern surfaces.

In recent years, the crowds for the Cup race at the Brickyard have shrunk. Yes, the IMS race still attracts well over 100,000 fans, but in a place where the grandstands for so many decades were packed with upward of 300,000 fans, the perception is one of sad emptiness. Large bald spots now dot the most historic front stretch grandstands in all of auto racing.

The guess here is that a Nationwide Race at IMS might draw the 30,000 fans who have traditionally turned out at Raceway Park on Brickyard weekend. Television camera operators and producers will have their work cut out for them as they attempt to hide empty seats from viewers.

Stock cars do not put on a great show at the flat, 2.5-mile oval, which was originally designed more as a test facility for the once-burgeoning Indianapolis car-manufacturing industry.

The Cup car races have been less than thrilling as the geometry and size of the track served to disperse the 43-car field into widely separated pockets. You have to believe that the situation will be the same for the NNS cars. Perhaps worse.

This baby could be dull. It certainly won’t be as entertaining as races at Raceway Park.

Perhaps a bigger, though related concern, is the: Why?

Does NASCAR’s second most-important race now need support? Does it need what promoters like to call “added value”? Has the Brickyard 400 fallen to the point where NASCAR and IMS need to kick up interest in the weekend by turning it into an extravaganza?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite race track. Period. It is almost mystic in its alure. Goose bumps continue to grow in May and I think the 400 is still a hugely important NASCAR event – bland racing and all.

I like the city of Indianapolis and I always look forward to going to the 500, the 400 and the NHRA U.S. Nationals. I loved the Formula 1 weekends there. Very soon, I will take in a MotoGP event in Indy.

Insane gouge jobs by hotels in the city on race weekends only deter a little bit from the place. It’s an easy city. It’s friendly. It’s American.

But the manufacturing of a Super Weekend of racing there just feels, well, manufactured. It feels desperate. It takes a great venue out of play. It gilds a very nice lilly.

Next year’s big event at Indy could make for a super weekend. It just won’t be a Super Weekend.

I’m just sayin’.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 7 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Gid says:

    Just please don’t tell me they are taking away the truck race too…

    Saddeness is only one emotion I feel right now. Irritated, angry, astonished…I could go on and on. I’ve been attending the IRP/ORP Nascar weekend for 15 years. It’s always been my favorite weekend of racing. There are few equals when it comes to that 5/8 mile track. Now we go from close quartered beatin’ and bangin’ to a 2 1/2 mile snoozefest with the excitement of a drying wall of paint. I’m also an 11 year season ticket holder at Kentucky Speedway. While I’m glad to finally ‘get’ a Cup race, I would gladly give that up to keep Nationwide at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. My 4 seats that have always been filled, will now go empty. NASCAR can count those gone for good. Good luck finding someone to fill them at IMS.