Auto racing’s most historic and celebrated event will be contested this weekend when the 107th annual Indianapolis 500 takes the green flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Borg-Warner Trophy, presented each year to the winning driver, is not only the biggest prize in IndyCar racing but is one of the most sought after rewards in all of motorsports.
Although not nearly as steeped in tradition as the Indy 500, from 1994 to 2020 the NASCAR Cup Series contested the Brickyard 400 on the famed 2.5-mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When the winds of public opinion blew toward road courses, however, the leadership of the most famous race track in the world along with the sport’s sanctioning body opted to change the circuit on which the series would race from the traditional oval to the facility’s road course.
Since then, there have been two road course events held at IMS rather than the historic oval.
In a recent Question & Answer session among drivers, two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was asked if there was anything from the past that he would like to see come back. His immediate answer was, “The Brickyard 400”. And the Richard Childress Racing driver is not the only person to have discussed the possibility of a return to the oval track at IMS.
In a story posted in January of this year on CBSsports.com, IMS president Doug Boles stated his belief in the likelihood that NASCAR would soon return to the more traditional layout.
“Those conversations have happened. In fact, they continue to happen,” Boles said. “We never said we’re not gonna go back to the oval when we switched to the road course. We wanted to see how it worked. That’s why we started with Xfinity and then rolled it into Cup, and then we wanted to give it some time to really see how it worked instead of just one year. However, we’ve talked about the importance of the oval. And if you think about a lot of the drivers. Winning on the oval is special. So we do want to get on the oval at some point in time.”
Racing on the road course at IMS takes away the special nature of being at that facility. The oval is legendary, the road is not. As a matter of fact, it isn’t necessarily even a good road course. There have been issues related to racing there in the two NASCAR events held to this point.
The funneling down effect of turn one has been the cause of numerous incidents. The temporary curbing used in parts of the infield sections of the track have caused trouble. And more, the pit entrance has, at times, also led to problems.
“The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard” is slated to take place on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit on August 13, 2023. This year’s version will be the third road course race held by NASCAR at IMS. So if there is to be a return to the 2.5-mile oval it will come no earlier than 2024.
Winning any NASCAR Cup Series race is a big deal but there are certain shows that outrank the rest. The Daytona 500, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 are among those marquee events. Many counted the Brickyard 400 among those when that series raced on the oval. It wasn’t that the competition was great but it was about the location of the race.
Nobody grows up dreaming of winning on the Indy road course but virtually everyone who has ever sat in a race car has, at some point, hoped to cross the ‘Yard of Bricks’ ahead of the pack. NASCAR should be racing on the same layout that hosts the Indianapolis 500 not necessarily because of the competition but because of the tradition and the history.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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