Wednesday's official announcement that the Nationwide Series would leave Lucas Oil Raceway for Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the more confusing decisions in recent NASCAR history.
Actually confusing is a polite word to use. Most fans that I've heard from have a few other choice descriptions for what they think of ending one of the most popular events in all of NASCAR.
Since 1982, NASCAR's number two division has visited what will most likely always be known as Indianapolis Raceway Park, the historic short track in Clermont, Indiana located about eight miles west of the Brickyard.
When NASCAR first brought the then Busch Series to the Midwest nearly thirty years ago it was the first real test of big time stock car racing's secondary circuit's appeal outside the Southeast.
Any questions about whether or not the idea to come to Indy were answered that first season when a jam-packed crowd turned out to see the "Good Old Boys" compete in the shadow of open wheel's birth.
Over the years the event grew and became even more popular eventually evolving into a two-day affair with the Camping World Truck Series also on the card as the warm-up act to Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at IMS.
Crowd estimates of 35-40,000 - just about capacity at the short track - were the norm as was the intense competition. Basically running the Nationwide Series and truck series at IRP was a throwback to the roots of the sport and the Saturday night short track racing many drivers, crew members and most importantly fans grew up on.
The call to end this three decade tradition came as a shock to many even inside the industry. It has been positioned as a "business decision," as NASCAR believes the move to the much larger platform and bigger spotlight at IMS will help the Nationwide Series continue to move forward.
There may be some truth to that theory. A handful of team owners have already stated that generating sponsorship might be a bit easier now that the Nationwide Series will compete at one of the most famous venues in all of racing. Many sponsors may look at the opportunity to associate their product or service with a team that will now perform on perhaps the highest of stages in the sport.
But there's a bigger question here and it has nothing to do with dollars and sense. The business equation of the sport should also include the best interests of the fans. And from the initial reaction this idea has fallen very short in the regard.
Stock car racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not the most compelling form of action in the sport. The flat, 2.5-mile speedway was not designed for the big, bulky and heavy stock cars of NASCAR but rather the sleek open wheel machines of Indy Car racing. More often than not the Brickyard 400, for all its prestige and status, is a strung out affair with single file racing rather than any side-by-side competition.
Drama in the way of fuel mileage or other interesting story lines are always a part of the event but in terms of intense racing the Brickyard 400 is not the go to race of the season.
Compare that to the virtually non-stop action of a Nationwide or truck series race at IRP. The 200-laps always provide the kind of intense racing fans long for and although some years the finish hasn't always been the closest or most memorable it was usually hard to forget a night of racing under the lights when NASCAR came to town.
I can honestly say that in all my years going to the track, covering the races or simply sitting in the stands as a fan some years when I wasn't on assignment, I don't ever remember one person having a complaint about their night at IRP.
That will change after this season's final event at the end of the month.
This decision in on par with another change NASCAR made several years ago that drew the outrage of some fans and ran others off, that to this day have not come back.
When NASCAR decided to "modernize tradition" and take the Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway and replace it with another Labor Day weekend event at California's Auto Club Speedway it literally destroyed one of the most cherished events in the sport. While the Southern 500 has returned as a Mother's Day weekend race and Darlington officials have done a magnificent job of keeping the track a vibrant part of today's NASCAR, the dismantling of one of the sport's crown jewels remains a critical error in judgment.
I'm afraid we have the Nationwide Series version of that decision now on our hands.
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