Pedley: Super Weekend Leaves A Hole In The Soul
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Clermont, Ind. – The corn dog looked bigger that the arm of the little kid who was holding it. With it’s popsicle stick at the bottom and thick layer of deep-fried golden corn batter, the corn dog looked both longer and meatier that the little arm.
And neither the 90-plus-degree heat, juicily humid air, wind-kicked dust nor audio overload of the small state fair-like midway set up behind the frontstretch grandstands of Lucas Oil Raceway appeared to be robbing the corn dog of its taste.
On the contrary.
It was race night at the old, proudly bruised short track located maybe 15 miles and 50 years away from slick, gleaming, expensive downtown Indianapolis and on race nights at places like that, not even the occasional whiff of an over-taxed porta-john can ruin the taste of a properly prepared corn dog.
Unfortunately, that particular race night, the one which featured Saturday’s Kroger 200 at LOR, would be the final one for the stars and cars of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. For a while, at least.
That series is moving east about 10 miles. To Indianapolis Motor Speedway where it will be part of the 2012 Super Weekend. As such, it will be teamed with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series (which will
race on the infield road circuit at IMS), and the Sprint Cup big boys.
It remains to be seen just how super the weekend will be.
Indy Speedway is kind of old itself. Over 100 years old. And it has a bit of history as it has hosted the most important car race in the world since 1911. And the sight of cars – open-wheel or fendered – coming out of Turn 4 and up through that glorious canyon of a front stretch remains, for some, the most awesome in all of motorsports.
IMS is big. Physically and emotionally. So big that anything but a huge racing series could get lost among its 250,000 grandstand seats.
And that is what I suspect is going to happen next year on Saturday of Super Weekend. The Nationwide cars and drivers will race around a ghost town. No amount of television trickery will be able to hide the lack of fan enthusiasm for NNS at IMS.
And only fear of disloyalty and admonition from Daytona Beach will hide the teams’ and drivers’ distaste for the move. As it was, this past weekend, it was tough to find a single driver who was unreservedly endorsing the move out of Lucas Oil Raceway.
As the sun turned red (dust or humidity or something causing that) in the late afternoon sky west of LOR, as the breeze that had been rustling the leaves of the half-grown corn west of the track stilled to
nothing, and as the shadows cast by the huge white oil storage tanks to the south disappeared, it began to become more evident why so very few drivers (and fans) are stepping up to applaud Super Weekend.
As the cars, which were staged door to door with tails to the outside wall of the front stretch, moved out, short-track Saturday night came alive. As the cars came past the grandstands, the fans rose and gave the traditional short track waving of hats and hands to the drivers.
Even in Turn 1, where families sat on lawn chairs and blankets on the grass-covered slope.
Lucas Oil Raceway looks way too narrow and flat to produce good racing. It looks rough. It is webbed by tar strips.
But when the green flag drops, the racing is top-tier. And I mean all over the track. Door-to-door.
On curtain-drop night for the Nationwide Series at the raceway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a perfect car for the vast majority of the night. Fast in, fast through, fast out. And on television, perhaps, the race may
have looked like a dog as Stenhouse jumped to big leads.
But at the track and free to watch what you want to watch and not what a producer wants to show you or what the and sponsors think is important, the Kroger was a beauty.
The muddled ending – where somehow Brad Keselowski, invisible a couple of laps before restarted from the front row after a bizarre fire sidelined Justin Allgaier, where Elliott Sadler had victory snatched away by a late wreck and where post-race interviews began with Stenhouse and the NASCAR moderator thinking he had finished second and not third – only added to the Saturday night short track feel.
Heading to the parking lot, dust blasted and greasy due to poor choice of wardrobe, the distinct feeling was this:
Don’t move the Nationwide Series to Indy Speedway next year. Move the Sprint Cup cars to Lucas Oil.
That would be a super weekend.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments