Brickyard Preview

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As you read this on Friday morning, Susan and I are on our way to Indianapolis for the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. What is that, you ask? It is the long and awkward title sponsor name for the IndyCar race on the IMS road course for the Brickyard Weekend.

For the second time this season, the Indy cars will race of the road course at IMS. For first time ever, the NTT IndyCar Series will share the same track on a race weekend with the NASCAR Cup Series. If you recall, last Fourth of July – IndyCar and the Xfinity Series raced on the road course, but the Cup Series raced on the oval. This year, all three series will race on the IMS road course.

While the Indianapolis 500 has been growing in popularity for the past several years, the Brickyard 400 has been a tough ticket to give away. There are many factors to that. First is the heat; whether it is September, the Fourth of July or mid-August – every time of year they have tried to run the Brickyard, it has been unbearably hot. The large portions of uncovered aluminum seats are understandably empty. It’s no fun baking in the sun with a boring race in front of you.

That leads me to Point Number Two – this race is historically very dull. There have been some good stock car races run at IMS since this event began in 1994, but they are the exception, and not the norm. That is why they decided to put the much heavier Cup cars on the road course this year – to (hopefully) bring some NASCAR excitement to 16th and Georgetown.

To help give fans a better bang for the buck, IMS officials decided to call in the Cavalry – the Indy cars. The way I see it, IndyCar has been brought in to save the day…and the gate. NASCAR TV ratings and attendance have been dropping for several years – especially at the Brickyard – so race officials are going to see if bringing in IndyCar fans will help bolster the gate. For us, it has worked. I have never once been to a Brickyard weekend, and wouldn’t be going this weekend if IndyCar wasn’t running.

In my eyes, since IndyCar is being brought in to save the day – they should be given top-billing for the weekend. Instead, IndyCar is being treated as the warm-up for the warm-up act. If you’ve been to major concert, the main attraction comes on around 9:00 pm. Prior to that, a band you’ve heard of comes on around 8:00 and plays their catalogue of one or two hits, in front of one curtain but behind another. IndyCar is being treated as the local band no one has ever heard of, playing in front of every closed curtain on the stage and starting around 7:30 as everyone is finding their seats.

Practice begins Friday at 3:00 pm EDT and will be shown on Peacock. Qualifying will begin at 7:00 pm EDT on Friday night – and yes, you read that correctly. Qualifying will be available commercial free on Peacock, or with commercials live on NBCSN. The morning warm-up will take place at 8:45 am EDT, also available on Peacock. The race itself runs at 12:30 on NBCSN, less than twenty-four hours after the first practice. Essentially, the IndyCar race serves as the appetizer and the Xfinity race will be the main course for Saturday. Both of those races will pave the way for the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday. I don’t think I like that,, especially since it is the IndyCar crowd that is being counted on to boost ticket sales.

I remember in 2002, I attended Formula One practice at IMS. I felt like I was on foreign soil. The place didn’t even feel like IMS. I have an idea with the heavy NASCAR presence, I’m going to experience that feeling all over again. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

I suspect the fans on hand will be amazed at the difference in speed and agility between an Indy car and a lumbering stock car on the 2.439 mile, fourteen-turn IMS road course. NASCAR is probably afraid it will be a noticeable difference for their fans, which probably explains why they have been so reluctant to do double-header weekends in the past. Will these be a thing of the future at other tracks? I hope not, if IndyCar is going to be consider the lowest of the support series. But if Cup wants to run at Pocono on Saturday, before IndyCar runs on Sunday – I might be more open to that.

We won’t really get a full feeling for the Brickyard weekend. We will probably be on the grounds while the Xfinity Series is running on Saturday afternoon, but we will be writing about the IndyCar race and the feel of the place in general. We will stay in Indianapolis on Saturday night, but we won’t be going to IMS. Instead, we will sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast before heading home at a decent hour. After all, we hit the road again next Friday to go to Gateway.

By picking Josef Newgarden to win at Nashville last week, I completely cursed him to a tenth-place finish in front of his hometown crowd, when he was never a factor. That was after he crashed in qualifying and was taken out of the Firestone Fast Six. It was all downhill from there. My apologies to the entire Newgarden family. I should have known better.

I won’t be picking Newgarden this weekend, so he will probably win. I’m also not picking Rinus VeeKay to duplicate his win on this circuit back in May. He has cooled off considerably since early June. He finished second in Race One at Belle Isle, but things have gone downhill since. He finished eighteenth in Race Two the next day, then broke his collarbone and missed Road America. He finished sixteenth at Mid-Ohio and twenty-fourth at Nashville. Something tells me VeeKay will not rekindle that May magic this weekend.

Who am I picking to win on Saturday? Scott Dixon. He will win and current points leader Alex Palou will have a second mediocre weekend in a row, to really tighten up the points battle. Never, ever count out Scott Dixon in August.

We will (hopefully) arrive at the track late morning. When we arrive, I’ll have a quick post before heading out. We will watch practice and qualifying and have a recap this evening. Susan will have a post here at some point, either this afternoon or tomorrow. You can also follow us on Twitter for photos, videos and comments. Follow me at @Oilpressureblog or Susan at @MrsOilpressure. Please check back later this morning.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “Brickyard Preview”

  1. In my opinion, Nascar also got “too big for their britches”. Pricing out the average race fan is a real thing and it seemed they kept getting more and more expensive(I could be wrong). They also have hardly any “personalities” with mainly corporate-speak cookie cutter racers. I hope that it feels more like an IndyCar weekend for you all.

    Side note – Another pork tenderloin sandwich?

  2. Don’t get your hopes too high on Pocono, George: I hear it now has got the PJ1. And Michigan, Phoenix and Loudon have it, too.

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