NASCAR Cup: Drivers have mixed emotions on inaugural Indianapolis Road Course race

Ever since 1994, the NASCAR Cup Series has traveled to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to race at the storied Brickyard. NASCAR’s always raced the traditional oval in a 160-lap, 400-mile race around the rectangular speedway. That is, however, until this weekend.

The Cup Series will race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this weekend as the final event of a tripleheader with the Xfinity Series and the NTT IndyCar Series. The Xfinity Series raced on the road course last season while the Cup Series raced on the oval, and the Xfinity Series event didn’t disappoint. Chase Briscoe won an exciting race, and it led to the Cup Series picking up the event on their schedule.

A major reason why the Cup Series is shifting to the road course has to do with attendance numbers. IMS has struggled to put fans in the stands for recent NASCAR races on the oval, so track owner Roger Penske and NASCAR are hoping the road course will drive fans back to the track. The oval has also provided some boring racing in the Gen 6 car era, so another road course on the schedule will likely boost entertainment and excitement levels.



Drivers have mixed feelings about shifting to the road course at IMS. Some drivers are excited about adding another road course race, while others are disappointed to lose the historic oval from the schedule despite the poor quality of racing.

Joey Logano: “It’s Indy. It’s a racetrack that everyone in the world wants to win at. Not just our country. It’s a world class facility, and everyone in the world wants to say they’ve won at Indy, whether it’s on the road course, on the oval, in a stock car, [in an] IndyCar, or tricycle. You want to say you’ve won it. That’s all it takes for me. You can still kiss the bricks at the end of it, [it] doesn’t matter”.

 

Michael McDowell: “I’m excited to run the road course. Obviously, I’m biased. It’ll be the first time that I get an opportunity to drive on the road course. I haven’t run anything else there, and I’m looking forward to it”

 

Aric Almirola: “It’s not the oval, it’s not the track that all of the legends have raced on in [IndyCar] and NASCAR, and everyone that showed up for the Brickyard 400. That’s always been a crown jewel event. It still will be, but it’s definately going to be different being on the road course”

 

Kurt Busch:”It’s a new challenge that you have to embrace, and I’m ready for it. The road couse racing that we are seeing has been way more exciting and way more dramatic than we thought we’d see with these big, heavy stock cars. So the oval track, has it ran it’s course? I guess so. Will we ever go back to the oval? We might, but with the road course coming up, you just have to embrace it and be ready. A value of a win at Indy, no matter what you are racing, is important.

Q: “You would still kiss the bricks if you won, right?”

Busch: “Oh absolutely. We’d burn it down, there would be a big celebration because it’s Indy”.

 

Kyle Larson: “I wish we were on the oval. I understand that the racing isn’t the most exciting on the oval, but it’s just the prestiege of it and getting to race on that, I think, is what I always got excited about. But, I haven’t gotten to run the road course, so maybe my opinion will change once I get there and get some laps and see if the atmosphere is even better. It seems that fans like road course racing, so maybe the crowd will be bigger and it will be more of an atmosphere”.

Q: “So, if you win, are you going to kiss the bricks?”

Larson: “I might. I don’t know, we’ll see. I’ve got to win first”.

 

Kyle Busch: “I don’t view it as Indy. Indy is the oval, that’s what makes the allure of Indy and that’s the prestiege of the place and [it] being around since 1900. It’s been there forever, it had a lot of history there…spin and win with Sullivan, Mears, AJ Foyt, the Uncer story, the Andretti story… all that’s IndyCar, obviously, but then it all started in 1994 with NASCAR going there and Jeff Gordon winning five times, Earnhardt winning, Dale Jarrett winning, Bobby Labonte winning…. It’s like the whose-who has won the Brickyard 400. So, I don’t forsee that being the same allure as being on the road course.

Busch: “When the winner wins next week, do they get out and do a kiss on the bricks?….Well, go lick it up”.

The Verizon 200 at the Brickyard is set for 1:00 pm ET on Sunday. NBC will air the race. Saturday’s Xfinity Series race will air at 4:00 pm ET on NBCSN.