Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

Posted on: October 4, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 5:27 pm
By Pete Pistone

  Ed Carpenter In His
(Exciting Indy Car racing like last week's finish at Kentucky Speedway is on the endangered list)

Sunday’s IZOD Indy Car Series race at Kentucky Speedway may have been the last for the open wheel series in the Bluegrass State. 

Despite yet another riveting race that featured a photo finish with Ed Carpenter scoring his first career victory over Dario Franchitti, the 2012 Indy Car Series schedule does not have Kentucky on the calendar. 

In fact next year’s slate will feature only five oval tracks with Kentucky and New Hampshire Motor Speedway dropping off the slate. So the series that was founded as an all-oval circuit in the aftermath of the open wheel split between CART and the IRL, has now dwindled to only a handful with the majority of the schedule now comprised with road courses and street circuits.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Bruton Smith reportedly would like to keep his two venues in Kentucky and New Hampshire as part of the plan, but without a title race sponsor those prospects appears slim at best. 

The list of former oval tracks that no longer host Indy Car racing is staggering; Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicagoland, Nashville, Kansas, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Dover, Michigan and Gateway all at one time were part of the open wheel world. 

But as the series evolved to include more road courses and street circuits, oval tracks fell by the wayside.

IZOD Indy Car Series CEO Randy Bernard would like to find a way to keep more ovals on the schedule but the business and economic side of the equation has made it a difficult challenge. 

“The ovals are important to our fan base and to our series because we need to keep a balance in order to remain the most diverse series in the world,” Bernard told SPEED. “I’m concerned but what can we do? It’s a tough deal right now getting promoters for ovals.’’ 

What adds to that tough deal is the tepid attendance for Indy Car oval track racing. With the exceptions of the Indianapolis 500, the relatively new stop at Iowa Speedway and the annual June visit to Texas Motor Speedway, which has also seen its ticket sales fall in recent years, generating a crowd for an oval track Indy Car race is nearly impossible. 

Despite spectacular racing, empty seats drove the series out of places like Chicago, Kansas, Milwaukee and Phoenix. Kentucky’s crowd was extremely thin and most likely put the final nail in the track’s open wheel coffin. 

I’m not sure what more fans could ask for in terms of excitement and thrills than watching these high-speed battles that more often than not result in exactly the kind of scintillating finish that saw Carpenter edge Franchitti on Sunday. 

Maybe it’s more a reflection on the hard pressed economy and the lack of funds facing all race fans. While Kentucky played to an intimate crowd, there also weren’t any attendance records being set at Dover’s Sprint Cup Series race. 

Although NASCAR attendance has been somewhat better this year than last, the standing room only crowds that punctuated the sport only a handful of seasons ago have not returned in mass. Everything from high fuel prices to outrageous lodging expenses to just simply not having as much disposable income can all be blamed for the still soft box office numbers. 

The upside is a NASCAR Sprint Cup race easily outdistances any stick and ball or other form of motorsports in the attendance department. But there’s no doubt series and track officials are hoping to drive ticket sales higher as soon as possible. 

So both disciplines of racing have their challenges in these uncertain times trying to find ways to entice more spectators through the turnstyles. 

But rather than each trying to outsmart the other, what would happen if NASCAR and Indy Car teamed up to promote a series of doubleheaders?

The Camping World Truck Series has worked well as a weekend partner to Indy Car racing over the years and in fact was the opening act on Saturday night in Kentucky. While on the surface there may appear to be little crossover between fan bases, the combination of the trucks and Indy Cars has more often than not created a pair of entertaining events at places like Kentucky, Texas and Kansas over the years.

Why not take it to the next level and tie in a Nationwide or even a Sprint Cup race with an Indy Car event? 

Certainly from the Indy Car standpoint it would provide a tremendous platform to put its product in front of a whole lot more people than the series has been able to draw on its own. 

Exposing a NASCAR-centric crowd to the kind of thrilling racing the series puts on at these intermediate-sized tracks would definitely provide an opportunity to hook those fans as potential followers down the road. 

The idea might be a bigger win for NASCAR track operators as well, some of which are having a tough time drawing decent-sized crowds for Nationwide and truck support events especially when Sprint Cup regulars are not in the field. 

Spicing up a weekend to include the lightning-fast Indy Cars as the preliminary to a Sprint Cup race could be just the tonic some tracks need to put some buzz back into their schedules. 

This idea has been casually floated before and almost immediately shot down by the previous Indy Car regime that balked at playing “second fiddle” to NASCAR. But Bernard seems to have a grasp on why doing business as usual is not a good thing and open to new ideas and thinking.

It’s time to put egos aside on both sides of the fence and explore opportunities that in my mind would be beneficial to each series.

Indy Car racing should not disappear from the oval track landscape. Fostering an alliance with NASCAR might seem like a radical idea, but could ultimately be a winning formula that fans just might warm up to.

More NASCAR coverage


Since: Oct 5, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 6:48 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

I agree with you.  NASCAR is too busy trying to sell the drama and push it down your throat.  Ditto on the diecast.  Just don't have Danica speak because the good girl act will only last so long.  Soon people will draw tired of her complaining.  Feel sorry for her husband.  She went from crowd favorite at Indy to get the hell out of town.  

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: October 5, 2011 6:19 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

Imagine this, what if promotes put up more money for some one to win both races?  For example you get Tony Stewart to drive a car in the Indy series for that event as well as his NASCAR and if he were to win both events that weekend he would get a bonus in money.  Think about the possiblities...put Kyle Busch or Danica Patrick in both races.  I'm willing to bet more people would show up for the events which means more money for the track.  It's a no brainer!!  It's a WIN-WIN for everyone including the fans!! 

Since: Oct 5, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:54 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

Back in the 70's, Texas World Speedway--the sister track to Michigan--used to run the Twin 200's.  They would have 200 mile NASCAR race followed by a 200 mile Indy Car race.  AJ Foyt won both events one year.  Imagine getting to see Petty, the Allisons, Yarborough and all those guys run and then sit back and catch Foyt, Unser, Rutherford and the Indy Car bunch all for the price of 1 ticket.  I agree with others, egos will keep this from ever happening again, but is sure is nice to think about.

Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:43 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

I used to be a HUGE NASCAR fan and I followed the series for decades and never missed a race.  Not anymore - the product that is on the track now is subpar and inferior in every way.  I grew tired of NASCAR and it's current announcers telling me how great the racing is when, in fact, it is crap.  And now we get excuses like "Everything from high fuel prices to outrageous lodging expenses to just simply not having as much disposable income can all be blamed for the still soft box office numbers."    Yeah, sure - if you say so...Or maybe folds have just had enough.
NASCAR racing used to be exciting.  Drivers raced back to the line when the caution came out.  If you got lapped - the only way to get back on the lead lap was to drive your butt off.  The "stock" cars actually resembled actual cars one could purchase at the dealership.  And there was no stupid "playoff" format.  Now we have the COT, safe tracks and the Lucky Dog.  Yay.  They have alienated a huge portion of their fan base with all these stupid rule changes and basically shot themselves in the foot. 

So what can NASCAR do to return to the glory days and bring the fans back?  Well, in keeping with their current thought process, perhaps they could have Danica Patrick remove an article of clothing every ten laps.  They could even throw a competition yellow caution beforehand to ensure the other drivers don't get too distracted and wreck.  Or maybe the drivers can earn points via a talent contest and redeem them for extra lucky dogs or perhaps even a season pass lucky dog.  Or maybe the drivers could get together and they could vote off one driver every race, ala survivor.  Or maybe they just start everybody who's not named Earnhardt Jr. 2 laps down at the beginning of each race to ensure that their most popular driver can return to glory? 

The new NASCAR sucks.  Anyone want to buy some diecast cars?

Since: Apr 12, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:17 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

I think it'd be a neat idea, not just for the ovals, but for the road courses as well!

Since: Jun 26, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:58 am

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR


While you have a good point, no way the haulers for all 4 series would fit at one track, they could do it on a weekend when only Sprint Cup is racing. I think it is a good idea myself, it would bring fans of both IRL and Nascar to watch races. If they pick the right track, it could fill up the seats. I grew up in Brooklyn, MI about 10 miles away from MIS. I used to sell programs at the races as a volunteer for my school (I was mostly interested in watching races for free!!). I did it for almost every race, this was before new grandstands, and in a much better economy, but every race was packed. I was at the inagural 500 mile race for IRL (sorry, dont remember the name of the race), but the place was packed, and it was an exciting race, even had a huge crash right at the beginning. I think it could work at a bigger track.

Since: Oct 5, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:37 am

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

My thoughts exactly as stated in my comments above.

Since: Oct 5, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:34 am

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

You know I get so tired of Nascar saying the same ol same ol. We need to figure out how to get attendance up.  Well it was their decision to close some of the sports best tracks over the years and open new ones and spread races all over the country to parts that could care less about the sport.  Also Nascar keeps saying in evry article, "oh its the cost of fuel, high price lodging, minimal disposable cash.  Although all these may be true you never hear them say we need look at our outrageous ticket prices and concession prices and fix them.  Maybe instead of pointing the finger at everyone else Nascar you should look in the mirror and point it at you.

Since: Nov 29, 2006
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:31 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

It's the logistics that will prevent this from happening.  Some race tracks can't even house the Nationwide haulers and Cup haulers in the same weekend.  Not enough space available.  Add the IRL to the mix and you would have to constantly swap teams and equipment in and out of the facility for every test, every qualifying session etc.  Sure, they could stagger the times, but there's only some much time in a weekend.  There certainly wouldn't be enough room for the truck series, and separating them from their NASCAR peers would most certainly kill their ratings.  Bad idea.  Let the IRL do it's own thing.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: October 4, 2011 10:22 pm

Idle Thoughts: Pair up Indy Car and NASCAR

Probably right about the egos keeping it from happening.  It's pretty sad though to see the attendance.  I looked foward to the race at Loudon, but I guess everyone else who did watched it on TV like me.  And the 1.5 milers are always pretty tight like last weekend.  It's a bummer to not have them draw.  It's starting to get a Champ Car feel to me where at the end they were going to new venues all the time because it didn't seem they could get enough fans to come back to a place year after year. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or