This is not the NASCAR at Indianapolis that many expected, nor wanted. When the sport came to test at the famed rectangle speedway in 1993, the hype was extremely real, extremely passionate. Even for that test, not a full field of cars, the fans that saw the action on the track knew that NASCAR belonged at the speedway.
It was not going to take away from the rich history of open-wheel action that made the track a must-visit and must-attend facility. What it did was add to the history of Indianapolis, not a new chapter to a current book, but it’s own book.
NASCAR was the sanctioning body that started the “kissing of the bricks” in 1996, on a whim, and now it is seen as tradition at every Indy event.
But now, those days feel like an afterthought.
NASCAR has not recovered from the chaotic debacle that was the 2008 Brickyard, at least not fully. Fans still remember that race for all the wrong reasons, and perhaps it is justified. A new car, a flat track, high speeds, no one knew that the combination of a heavier car and the same tires as the Gen-4 would lead to no rubber build up and instead lead to blowouts and multiple cautions to save calamity from happening all day long.
Crowds still came out in big numbers, but it was not the crowd that had come in the 90’s and early 2000’s. To expect NASCAR to draw the same size crowd now at Indianapolis as it’s open-wheel counterpart, it’s unrealistic, but it was clear that things were hurting.
Not being able to host a crowd at the Brickyard in 2020 because of the pandemic felt like the moment things needed to change, but it was a change that just seems not completely right for the Cup Series.
NASCAR has a unique opportunity in Indianapolis with all three series on the schedule. The trucks ran at Indy Raceway Park, then the Xfinity Series ran the road course.
Rather than make it three series, three different tracks, for the third time the Cup series is going to be on the road course. The hope was to give Indianapolis a new vibe, draw in a crowd to see something different, and add in new chapters to a book that already had many unique moments.
These chapters, however, feel like ones the drivers on the track are not fans of, at least when it comes to the top-tier series.
Many feel that the Cup Series deserves to be racing on the oval, and it’s a justified thought. NASCAR’s history in Indianapolis is not on the road course, although both races that the Cup Series has created some moments that are unforgettable, and maybe a bit scary. Yet, those moments are different than what we have seen when on the big track.
Indianapolis was the first track NASCAR drove on that had the SAFER barriers installed, since becoming an industry standard. It’s the first 2.5-mile speedway that was added to the schedule since Pocono, a track that patterned one of it’s corners from the Indy oval. No other track sees the winner, after so many laps and so much rubber laid down, will they decide to kneel at the bricks and plant a smooch.
But, turning left and right, it just does not feel like the current pages for Indianapolis are ones the Cup series wants to include.
Will they return to the oval? The hope is that they do. Should they return to the oval?
When it comes to Cup, that answer is definitely yes.