Programming Note: I am awash with guilt because NASCAR and Grand-Am are receiving features on a website specifically devoted to indycar racing. However, this weekend’s events took place at our open wheel home so we were all paying a bit more attention to what was happening. Today I am tackling the controversy from the weekend and tomorrow will be an on-the-ground raceday report of Friday. DON’T WORRY, indycar insanity will return later in the week.
I will admit to being a bit peeved after I saw Jimmie Johnson do a nose-into-pitwall burnout right on top of the yard of brick. I still can’t put my finger on exactly why, but it definitely irked me. I had no issues with his smoky burnout down the front straight that included the three feet of brick at the flagstand. Nor was I concerned with Brad Keselowski’s burnout after his nationwide win, or any burnout done after a win; smoky, stinky burnouts are cool and a huge part of racing. Celebrate, but don’t roast them right on top of the bricks; that’s just disrespectful.
I do not doubt JJ’s knowledge of the history and lore of The Speedway and I am positive he understands the importance of the facility to Indianapolis area residents, American open wheel fanatics and the larger motorsports community as a whole. But any machines other than open wheelers during May are visitors in our house and they should respect The Brickyard as such. I think of this as a similar situation to when Terell Owens, a 49er, celebrated on the Cowboy star at their home field in 2000; you’re more than welcome to play in our house, just remember those who live here. It’s like my mom always said: think before you do your burnout.
The only issue I was totally at odds with all weekend was the movement of the Nationwide Series from LORP/ORL (IRP for eva) to IMS. I live here in the city, am invested in the local motorsports economy and want to see the industry as strong as possible. However, I fear for the future of IRP; without the yearly NASCAR driven cash infusion I worry the oval track may soon become a memory. The Busch/Nationwide race has been a sellout since its inaugural year in 1982 and I’m sure there are other perks that were received from the league. The drag strip has the NHRA US Nationals, but now the oval does not sport a similar headlining summer event; this is not good for the oval track business.
Some will ask if NASCAR, or any other form of racing besides indycar, should be competing at The Brickyard at all. I take no issue whatsoever with IMS management bringing in an array of racing series. Just the past five years have seen Formula One, Moto GP, Sprint Cup and of course INDYCAR take to the bricks as well as a plethora of undercard series as well: Formula BMW, Moto2, 125cc and 250cc Moto Championship, Porsche Supercup, Ferrari Challenge, Nationwide Series, Red Bull Riders and Rookies Cup, Rolex Sports Car Series, Continental Tires Series and Indy Lights just to name most of them. This is one of the most complete portfolios of racing properties to be boasted anywhere in the world. Sounds exactly like IMS to me.
Yes, I counted Grand-Am as an undercard, because they were. Some say, having these types of sports cars instead of the ALMS is a disgrace to The Speedway because they are not the pinnacle of their own game. Neigh I say, ALMS would have merited its own weekend instead of being a support race for Sprint Cup weekend because we would have probably seen longer than a three hour race. I always hope an ALMS race is what slots into the inevitably empty Moto GP weekend sometime in the future. This was not a marquee event; it was a filler to pump up attendance for the Brickyard 400. Don’t believe anything else; the sports cars were weekend filler and no more.
There actually was a top-level series there on Thursday that I bet has already slipped through the cracks. The Street Tuning series is the top level touring car type series in the US. The ST class is also home to the manufacturer funded Kia Motorsports and this is the highest level that the company competes at. The only place to go “up” from here would be a berth into the World Touring Car Championship. Does it matter that the slowest class of the day would also represent the pinnacle of their discipline in the United States? The top is the top no matter which way you slice it. Yes, teams and drivers alike use the ST class as a stepping stone, but those machines are still the best in the business when it comes to small displacement, short wheelbase road racing.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my local big league track and I want to see as many forms of racing as I can; why would they not bring them to town? We are a racing city and the demand is here for at least a few years until the local populace gives a collective been-there-done-that sigh of apathy. I am blessed to have a facility that not only holds the largest single day sporting event in the world, but has also brought some of the biggest names in international motorsports through its doors. As I stood on the spectator mound during the Grand-Am race I found myself thinking: this just feels right.
Thank you, Mr. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for having the gumption to look decades of history in the face and bringing stock cars to the hallowed grounds. Those who once were invaders are now welcomed by most, year in and out. Without that historic race in 1994, I would have never been able to experience some of the things witnessed outside of Memorial Day weekend. As an indycar diehard; I feel like a traitor, but as a race fan and Indianapolis resident; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to see what else may rumble across the bricks in the future.