Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to one of the greatest traditions in all of motorsports. The prestige of the place and the events surrounding it made it a perfect fit for the up-and-coming NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1994. 200,000 spectators showed up that first year – in 2007 the number was 270,000.
17 years later NASCAR at Indy is struggling to find the magic it once had. The racing has never been that good, and attendance has been on the decline – down to 140,000 last year, still reeling from the tire debacle in 2008. With that in mind officials with IMS and NASCAR have been looking for ways to add value to the event.
In recent weeks that talk has centered around the addition of a Grand-Am Rolex Series event and potentially the Nationwide Series at the big track. The idea being, the more events, the bigger draw. Helping the case too is a guaranteed $700,000 payday for the Nationwide event.
Adding the Grand Am Series to Indy is, at least on the surface, a good fit – there is a great road course at IMS used for years by F1 and MotoGP. For the Nationwide cars though, the idea of a shift from Lucas Oil Raceway Park is a little cringe worthy.
The Nationwide cars have been at LROP every year since 1982. The short track always provides great races and great racing. While it would certainly be a novelty to see the cars at IMS, the racing is sure to be lacking.
With the Brickyard just a few weeks away, it’s interesting to think about not just whether or not the Nationwide cars should be there, but whether or not the Cup cars should be there. Certainly even in the worst year the Brickyard has produced attendance numbers any sport would envy. Still, with limited passing ability, the racing has always been lacking.
I think it important for a sanctioning body to occasionally evaluate the quality of its events. When those events reach a point that fan interest is clearly waning, perhaps it comes time to reconsider them. Perhaps, just perhaps, NASCAR is reaching that point with the Brickyard.
Sometimes it’s better to admit when things aren’t working and look for successful solutions than it is beat a dead horse – I’m not sure which they’re doing here.