I’m not sure what’s going on with Indianapolis and NASCAR, but full disclosure, this race has lost it’s luster in the last decade. We all know what race set it off, and it’s one that I think all fans wish they could forget, both those in attendance and those that watched it.
When the gen-5 car came out in 2007, we all knew it was a learning curve for all teams, but coming to Indianapolis was a complete debacle for the sport. The teams, the track, and Goodyear came out ill-prepared for the speeds and the handling of that car at that fast and sweeping speedway didn’t have any results that NASCAR wanted. We all know the tires were turning literally to dust, as if one took a grinder to the rubber. The track never took on a groove, and literally after as many laps as one can count on their hands, a caution had to wave to keep teams from blowing out the tires.
The problem was…a race that is 160 laps long, seeing a caution every 10 or 11 laps, it makes it just a series of sprints and it takes the entertainment value out of the race.
Ever since that event, this place has struggled to bring in the kind of hype that we expect a place like Indianapolis to bring.
Back in 1994, it was an enormous deal when NASCAR arrived at this place. A year prior, just for testing, this was a huge moment. Everyone wanted to know if stock cars would be allowed at a place where open wheel racing simply was kind, and now it feels like it’s back at that point. It feels like this place is trying to earn it’s place once again on the schedule. Last year this race changed dates hoping to increase the hype by making it the deciding race for the playoffs, and instead it got rained on and moved to a Monday.
I have been to Indy, and just coming into such a facility is beyond words, because you recognize and honor the history of the speedway. I got lucky to actually go into the pit area after the race to see some of the historic things Indy has, and then the crowd I was with had to stop…because Ricky Rudd’s crew was rolling his race-winning car to post-race inspection.
Yet now, it’s almost like those moments are fleeting. The only thing that feels the same from those early years of Indy to now is the one moment that came on a whim…the kissing of the bricks. That now happens at every race held at the speedway, from the Indy 500 to Formula 1. That has stuck.
Next year Indy gets moved again on the schedule as now Daytona bookends the regular season, but if that works or not, this place needs a boost because this “Crown Jewel” has lost the luster it had.
Whether it comes back, we don’t know, but welcome to Indianapolis. Let’s get racing.