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Pull The Plug On Pulling The Plug At Indy Talk

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 26 2012

The race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is still a Sprint Cup crown jewel. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

It’s becoming an annual rite of mid-summer: Cruise the Internet and read columns and blogs and Tweets about how the Brickyard 400 has become dung and that it’s time to shut it down. One of those babies popped up at the top of the Google search just this morning.

They’ll continue to pop up for, oh, another five days or so, I suspect.

They’ll all contain a paragraph or two which lay out the declining attendance figures. They’ll weave in words like “dwindling” and “waning” and point out the boring nature of the racing on the flat 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway track.

And none will be complete without bringing up the “tire fiasco” of  2008.

The authors started out a few years back using the, “Is it time to…?” template. They have moved to the, “It has become apparent…” template.

And the nut graph: Pull the plug. Uproot the Brickyard abomination and move it some place else.

My, how shocking. How bold. How edgy. Dump the Brickyard.

The guess here is that that’s not going to happen any time soon, however. Just can’t see it.

Just can’t see NASCAR dumping an event that still attracts 138,000 paying fans.

The world's most famous race track is still a great place for NASCAR. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Can’t see NASCAR giving the heave-ho to one of the two races which attracts continent-wide crossover interest and can’t see NASCAR euthanizing an event that even the most-pure of stock car fans consider one of the sport’s crown jewels.

Can’t see NASCAR getting rid of the race which gets the major media boost that comes with kicking off ESPN’s portion of the broadcast schedule and can’t see ESPN saying, yes, good idea, scrap that darn money-maker.

Can’t see NASCAR contracting its schedule and, hence, can’t see moving the Brickyard date to Iowa Speedway or Gateway.

See, the Brickyard is not a freak show, a “novelty item”. It’s been around since 1994. Next year, it will be run for the 20th time.

It’s become part of the NASCAR fabric. A big part.

It’s produced some wonderful, classic races and moments: Indiana boy Jeff Gordon winning the inaugural and Earnhardt Sr. winning the next year. Indy 500-winner John Pablo Montoya heading for the IMS sweep but denied by a penalty. Dale Jarrett and wonderful old Robert Yates kissing the yard of bricks. Ricky Rudd holding off Bobby Labonte in 1997.

The best: Tony Stewart getting the victory he wanted more than getting his next breath. Then, heading to the Turn 2 suites to salute his father and Indiana extended family.

Name a place on the schedule that has not seen precipitous drops in attendance. If you apply the slowing-turnstile logic across the board, NASCAR will have a zero-race schedule next year.

Approval of competitors should never be the major reason for granting, keeping or subtracting a race or a race track. But, driver and team perspectives about a track should always, to some degree, be considered. Chemistry between performers and the venue they perform at is reflected in everything for the quality of the performance to the aura around the event.

When it comes to team and driver approval of the Brickyard, it is about as unanimous as it gets. They are thrilled to be racing at the place – which most, yes, most, still consider a shrine to American racing, and you bet that contributes to the weekend.

OK, the racing at Indy is not door-to-door but where, exactly, is it still that way? Sorry, just not into a series that features 14 races at Richmond every year.

And, oh, the tire fiasco? Daytona has had a fiasco or two – remember the pothole? – but I stand firm in my belief that Speedweeks should not be abandoned.

It’s still a thrill to see 43 cars coming out of Turn 4 on the green-flag lap. Still cool to see the big old taxicabs being pushed out to the track through Gasoline Alley. Still worth taking a stroll down Georgetown Road on the night before the race. A deep-fried porkloin sandwich still tastes terrific amid the din of pushrod V-8s.

Scuttle the Brickyard 400?

Yeah, right.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 26 2012
7 Comments

7 Comments »

  • Derek Reeder says:

    I am boycotting the Snozeyard 400, because they took the NWS race from IRP. It will be the first race that I missed since the mid 90’s. I hope Brian enjoys a 180 mph parade for the NWS race.

  • Tony Geinzer says:

    Indianapolis is a big part of the Automotive and American Fabric, even older than Fenway. But, what we realize is we all need to care for our venues and not degrade like the Milwaukee Mile. We will have a Southern Boom, as it will be more welcome and organic for our fair sport.

  • Mike says:

    North Wilkesboro was a big part of the NASCAR racing fabric.

    The Southern 500 at Darlington was a big part of the NASCAR racing fabric.

    Rockingham was a big part of the NASCAR racing fabric.

    What do they have in common? Their ‘plug was pulled’ in spite of being part of the real NASCAR fabric. Oh, and the racing at all three venues was fantastic.

    The only ‘fabric’ at Indy is the fabrication by NASCAR & their media dog washers that it’s anything other than a plain ol’ boring race.

    Let’s face it, after decades of scorn towards stockcars, Southerners, rednecks, etc., NASCAR was invited only to save the Brickyard’s ass as part of the CART/IndyCar debacle.

    We saved their bacon with the Brickyard 400. But in the end it’s still a very, very, dull race. And having been there twice, it’s really not that good of a racetrack to visit.

    I won’t be watching the Cup race. And since we’re venting, I wont watch the Grand National race either. IRP was part of the NASCAR racing fabric…

    • john hickson says:

      hey Jim, did you see what Mike said? he spoke the truth. the indy race sucks in a loud ,vociferous manner. i guess that makes you a media dog washer. lets close california,michigan,vegas,chicago,and kansas while we’re at it.

      • Jim Pedley says:

        Yes, John, saw it. Hey, a clean dog is a healthy dog.

        • Eric says:

          I agree completely with Jim’s article.

          I don’t know what it is with NASCAR fans these days. Yes, the racing is far from perfect, but my god, it’s like ever since social media became a phenomenon, all fans do now is flock to the internet trying to find something about our sport to complain about.

          My favorite is when people refer to NASCAR’s golden era as the days of “Petty and Pearson”….you know…when maybe 3 cars would finish on the lead lap? Now…if that sort of thing were to happen today…fans and media alike would declared it “the official death of NASCAR.”

          Fans complain today that our drivers have no personality and are dull. Then when Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick or anyone else delivers a bit of emotion…99 percent of you “fans” want these drivers “kicked out of NASCAR and banned for life.”

          Nothing has changed at INDY. It’s not like the whole “Bristol configuration” that kind of took away from the track’s character. INDY is still INDY. It has always been single file racing there ever since 94. Why is it that today it’s a huge problem…but back in the 90’s it wasn’t?

          Why is it today NASCAR is accused of being “too corporate to their sponsors.” You do know that cars back in the 80’s and 90’s flaunted their sponsors as well right? I don’t get why as of 2007ish…all of the sudden it was time to hop on the bandwagon and disgrace NASCAR in every possible way imaginable.

          The problem with our sport today has as much to do with some of you so called “fans” as it has to do with the sanctioning body.

          • Joe says:

            Damn the Brickyard 400 was exciting! So much so I flipped to the #$%^ing Olympics…

            Can’t wait till next year & the next installment of ‘oh how great Indy is & how nostalgic & how the race is sooooo boring but we gotta keep it’.