Turn 2 Blog: Indy Oval or Indy RC? & Can Van Gisbergen make it here?

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.

Indy RC vs Indy oval?

Richard: It seems like the races held on the Indianapolis Road Course have been a bit hit or miss. The 2023 version had the feel-good story of Michael McDowell and his lesser financed Front Row Motorsports team winning to lock themselves into the NASCAR Playoffs, but in reality, the racing was pretty good though not necessarily great. Overall, it was a likeable race but not one that will go down in the annals of NASCAR history as an amazing show with highlights being played back for years to come.

The argument some might use against the traditional 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval is that it struggled to even produce likeable races. It seemed that more often than not, the field would get strung out around the rectangular layout simply logging laps with little actual racing going on.

All that said, if the racing is not going to be amazing on the road course, then why use it? I have argued all along that the oval at IMS is the most famous race track in the world and if the NASCAR Cup Series is going to race at that facility, it should do so on the historic track.

With the old Gen-6 car, road courses and short tracks were needed because they could be counted on to produce good racing. The Next Gen, or Gen-7, has done just the opposite by producing better racing on other types of venues.

In my opinion, the top racing series in America needs to be on the most noted track in America, or the world for that matter, and that track is the oval at IMS.

Should NASCAR return to the IMS oval?( Getty)

Michael: I think the road course at Indy was a necessary evil at the end of the previous generation of the Cup car. It did not produce good racing on the oval. If NASCAR wanted to remain at Indy, the road course was the next best option.

With the current Cup car, NASCAR needs to head back to the oval or just take Indy off the schedule. There are better road course options out there than the Indy road course. The layout has no elevation changes, no hairpin turns, or much of anything that provides great racing. It’s okay, but nothing great. Even the location of the start/restart zone made that an odd beginning to green flag action.

Can Shane van Gisbergen succeed here?

Richard: There were a lot of factors that played into Shane van Gisbergen’s victory on the Chicago street course. That race was held on a circuit that no one in the field had experience on, it rained, and everyone raced the foreign newcomer a little cleaner than they might have had he been a NASCAR regular.

If he comes to the United States full time, those factors won’t be in play. And despite the fact that there are more road courses on the schedule than there were a few years ago, there are still significantly more ovals on the slate and the New Zealand native has virtually no experience on those.

Van Gisbergen is already 34 years old which is pretty late in the life of a race car driver to be taking on a new discipline.

Marcos Ambrose came to America with essentially the same background in racing as van Gisbergen. The Australian was able to win two NASCAR Cup Series races, both on the road course at Watkins Glen, but never finished higher than 18th in the final standings. Of course, things are different nowadays as a win in the Cup Series is likely to at least get a driver into the NASCAR Playoffs. If a team is willing to gamble on making it into the group sixteen that will race for a championship by winning a road course race, this is a driver who could be worthy of a shot.

However, I would not count on much more than a road course success or two if van Gisbergen ever races full time in the U.S.

Michael: I’m not going to say whether van Gisbergen would be a success or not on the NASCAR ovals. We haven’t seen him do it to really form an opinion. But he would definitely be a threat to win on any of the road courses. That’s one of the reasons I’m surprised more teams didn’t call on A.J. Allmendinger for a vacant Cup ride.

I’ll say one thing about his experience. The NASCAR media folks are constantly talking about his background in the V-8 Supercars. He also has a fair amount of experience on the dirt tracks of New Zealand and Australia racing sprint cars. He might better adapt to the ovals than Ambrose and others have faired.

Should there be more NASCAR and IndyCar combination weekends?

Richard: Whether or not there should be more weekends like last when both NASCAR and IndyCar raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not so much of a question as CAN there be more NASCAR and IndyCar combination weekends?

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea in the same way that pairing Late Models and Sprint Cars at the same location on dirt sounds great. However, there are actually only a few possibilities for it to happen. Just as is the case for the World of Outlaws-sanctioned World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, the logistics have to be just right to make it happen.

And more than just finding the right track or tracks, there are a million other issues to consider. Television rights, garage space, ticket packages considering that some fans would have no interest in watching both, and media accessibility would all have to be worked out.

While it could be something that would benefit both, the reality is that it’s a very difficult chore to pull off. Indianapolis Motor Speedway may be about the only location that could handle such a task.

Michael: The IndyCar Series has tried to separate themselves from NASCAR for a long time. But with Roger Penske taking over the series, it seems like he’s leading the effort to get both together. After all, he owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and controls all aspects of this deal except NASCAR. When Roger Penske speaks, NASCAR will certainly listen.

I think the Charlotte Roval is an ideal candidate for an Indy/NASCAR doubleheader. The only question I have is how well would the IndyCar portion be attended in the middle of NASCAR country. Granted, there are a lot of transplants in the Charlotte area. It would give IndyCar more exposure in the south, something the series needs.

This wouldn’t be considered a doubleheader, but there is talk of moving the Nashville IndyCar race to the final race of their season and running it on the Sunday after Bristol’s night race in mid-September. I’m sure IndyCar would try to advertise it as a type of doubleheader. But I don’t know how many people would make a 5-6 hour drive from Bristol to Nashville after a race that ends around 11 p.m. on Saturday night.

Please consider also reading:

An OK day might not be OK for Bubba Wallace at Watkins Glen

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