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Gordon Stands Up For Racing At The Brickyard

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 22 2009
Jeff Gordon still gets pumped about driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon still gets pumped about driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

It seems odd given the history and heritage of Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Jeff Gordon would spend much of Tuesday’s NASCAR teleconference answering questions about NASCAR’s continued participation at Indy.

Gordon, a one-time resident of nearby Pittsboro, Ind., isn’t the most unbiased one to answer, but he said he sees no reason to make any major schedule changes.

“As a kid growing up, I always dreamed about racing at Indy, and I thought those dreams had gone away when I was moving down south and starting my NASCAR career,” he said. “I love the fact that the Brickyard 400 happens every August or July. And it’s just a spectacular event.”

He pointed out that from his standpoint, NASCAR races at Indy seem like a smart plan for all the parties involved.

“I don’t know the financials and everything that go along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but to have two successful races there a year seems to make more sense than just one.

“But the history of the Indianapolis 500 has kept that place alive and doing so well for so many years that maybe it can sustain just one race. And I think that certainly had a lot to do with prestige and history of not only that event but as to the meaning of the Brickyard 400 when it came along.”

Gordon acknowledged that NASCAR racing at Indy isn’t as big a story as it once was, especially now that it’s been done for th e better part of two decades, since he won the first one back in 1994.

“Has the novelty worn off?  Hey, that happens in a lot of different sports and events,” he said. “So maybe it has. But we still attract a huge crowd there, even if it’s dropped a little bit…

“From the competitors’ standpoint, it’s one of the biggest races that we have right now. Next to the Daytona 500 is where I would put it.

“So I think it’s still a popular event. I think it’s one that we always like to see continue on forever.  But we as competitors don’t always make that decision.”

The questions are coming up this year because of last year’s tire debacle and because of slow advance ticket s ales, a problem not only for Indy but for many other tracks these days.

Gordon said he believes it could take several races for fans to regain their confidence that they’ll see a good race at the Brickyard after last year’s race which rarely saw a green-flag run longer than a dozen laps.

“I think certainly a lot of damage was done,” he said of last year’s race. “It might take more than one race [to regain fans’ confidence] but I believe it can happen.”

He said he fully understands the frustration and disappointment that fans felt last year.

“They should have been (disappointed),” he said. “I think we were all pretty disappointed in what happened there.”

But he said he’s encouraged by the tire testing that has been done in the past year.

“I think that you’re going to see us come out of what happened last year with the tires; you’re going to see a whole different type of race,” he said. “And the issues with tires are not going to be from wearing them down to cords in eight or ten laps like last year.

“I’m very confident in the tires.  I did the last test there and was very pleased.”

And he pointed out that there’s still hope for some substantial last-minute ticket sales.

“A lot of fans are waiting it out for… it could be a number of reasons,” he said. “It could be their own finance issues that they’re dealing with, like so many others, basically everybody that’s dealing with something with the economy and holding off on that.

“It could be  waiting for less expensive ticket prices and seeing if that happens later leading up to the race.”

What those fans who don’t show up could miss is Gordon winning a record five times at the Brickyard, and that’s something that is entirely possible.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 22 2009
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