Image courtesy of www.twitter.com/jeff_gluck.
When it was introduced to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule in 1994, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway felt like a big deal. The most famous oval in the world wasn’t just for open-wheelers anymore – stock cars would take hold for one August Saturday morning every year.
As time went by, the prestige was still there for the drivers. Kissing the start-finish line of bricks become a yearly tradition, the NASCAR edition of drinking a pint of fine Indiana milk. However, the luster began to disappear.
By 2001, NBC moved the race to Sundays and billed it as the “Brickyard 400 presented by Exxon/Mobil.” Allstate picked up naming rights in the middle of the decade. The stands weren’t as packed as they used to be.
Which leads us to today’s Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com. (ESPN could have referred to it at one point as “Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com and presented by Golden Corral.” Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s own radio network just referred to it as the “Brickyard 400.”)
Reports had attendance at 125,000 fans – exactly half of the speedway’s capacity of 250,000. It was yet another battle of track position and fuel strategy in this 2012 season; one poor restart took both Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski out of contention.
And, for the fourth time, no one could touch Jimmie Johnson on the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy’s route to Victory Lane. He’ll join luminaries such as Jeff Gordon, Rick Mears and Michael Schumacher as four-time winners at IMS.
Simply put, it was a fairly dull race.
It’s not like the Brickyard, despite unfavorable banking and narrow straightaways, isn’t capable of thrilling races. One just needs to look at the Bill Elliott-Rusty Wallace duel of 2002 and Tony Stewart’s battles with Kasey Kahne (2005) and Kevin Harvick (2007) for good examples of great Indy classics.
The great racing just isn’t there recently. No poorly conceived “Super Weekend” with the Nationwide Series and the Grand-Am Series can change that.
NASCAR has had no problem killing long-standing traditions in recent years, just ask Rockingham Speedway owner Andy Hillenburg or the folks at Darlington Speedway.
Now, it might be time to put an end to stock cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Leave the Brickyard to those who made it what it is today.