This holiday weekend just feels so different compared to what it was a season ago. Last year, it was a return to the beach to welcome teams in celebrating Independence Day. It was a weekend where we are to celebrate the freedoms to be ourselves, do what we love, and with those we care about.
This year, NASCAR celebrates the holiday at a new venue, but a familiar one. A track that has historical importance to the racing industry, with part of the original track still showing.
But unfamiliar is the emptiness in the stands, as the Brickyard will not have any people watching. Not one fan will be in the grandstands to see one conquer the most famous speedway in America, and potentially kiss those bricks at race’s end. It just seems odd, but then again this entire year, whether on the track or off the track, has been odd…and now it gets concerning.
We now head to Indianapolis knowing the man that is already deciding to call it a career at season’s end…now must miss his final trip to the famed speedway.
As I write this, I try to contemplate the after effects of what Jimmie Johnson said to his fellow peers, and to the sanctioning body. We already knew how serious everyone in the sport was taking the pandemic, and now everyone has their guard up. Johnson’s positive test, even if he wasn’t at the speedway, shows how serious it gets. No one knows how serious it gets until it hits home, and in a sense right now Johnson is NASCAR’s “Undertaker” as he’s the linchpin for the garage. This has been a farewell tour unlike any we have seen. It started with positive hopes and a burning desire, then that hope halted for over 70 days.
It then returned, but now has halted again. Now there’s a lot of uncertainty as to where he goes from here, and even where the sport goes from here.
This has been a season unlike any in the over 70 years the sport has been in existence.
NASCAR has seen muscle car wars, tire debates and debacles, two different style cars in one season, but never have so many different items come during one year. Many are afraid to ask what could be next, since truthfully, what is next could be a lot worse than what we’ve already experienced.
Still, coming to a place like Indianapolis, especially when it now includes a double dose of racing styles, is special. Combining both open wheel and stock car racing at one venue in one weekend is a historic step, especially when this place is known more about the open-wheel events rather than stock cars. It was even uncertain if having stock cars here would be frowned upon, but it has been welcomed and enjoyed. It will never compare to the event that normally happens the same weekend as NASCAR’s longest event, but instead it has become it’s own book of history at the famed speedway.
This chapter is now one that will be forever remembered. America’s independence at the most famous speedway is celebrated with no fans, and the leader in the garage forced to watch from afar.
Welcome to Indianapolis.