A big change is being made to one race on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. The annual race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will now be run on the track’s road course layout, new owner Roger Penske and NASCAR announced this morning.
The Xfinity Series has been running at IMS since 2012. Previously, NASCAR’s lower divisions competed across town at Lucas Oil Raceway. The decision to move was, and still is, controversial with NASCAR fans.
“As we’ve seen in recent years, road-course racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series provides some of the most thrilling action of the entire season, and we are excited to bring it to an iconic venue like Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR managing director of racing operations and international development. “Roger, Doug and the entire IMS team have been tremendous partners in growing the Brickyard weekend, and we’re looking forward to what promises to be a must-see event during July 4th weekend.”
It’s the fifth road course race of the season for the Xfinity Series.
Attendance has declined rapidly at Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400 on the Cup side. The move to bring the Xfinity cars to the track was meant to enhance the racing weekend at the famed 2.5 mile track. Instead, we’ve seen the Xfinity series compete in front of a nearly empty grandstand.
NASCAR has changed the racing package itself too, in an attempt to draw more interest. Restrictor plates and aero ducts created a more Daytona/Talladega feel, but it didn’t help overall interest and attendance.
Their latest move is to move the race to the road course, which will open up more infield activity and give fans another road course race in the process. The move is absolutely a good one by Roger Penske, but let’s be honest — it’s not the final outcome we all want here.
It seems like a matter of time before NASCAR returns to the half-mile oval down the road. It’s what the fans want, it’s what a lot of the drivers want. With an emphasis being placed on short tracks in 2021, this seems like an obvious mistake to fix.
As for IMS, NASCAR is going to keep trying to make this race happen. The Brickyard 400 isn’t what it used to be. Winning in front of a crowd of empty silver bleachers just isn’t the same as blasting down the front stretch with screaming fans on both sides. The feel of this race from the 1990s is long gone and is unlikely to return.
The name alone means something, but all the juice has been taken out of the race for the average fan.
Maybe this Xfinity road course race is really just a test — a test to perhaps save NASCAR Cup Series racing at Indianapolis. Could we see the Cup Series move to the road course in 2021? I’d bet the vast majority would prefer that over the stale product that the classic 2.5 mile layout consistently produces.
This year’s Xfinity race is scheduled for July 4th, moving from its previous September date. Matt DiBenedetto is slated to test a few different layouts next week.