How to revive the Brickyard 400 (cont.)
While this may not do much to generate excitement among NASCAR fans, it certainly might be enough to bring some of the Indianapolis 500 fans back to the Speedway at the end of July.
Ticket sales are off for the Brickyard not only because NASCAR fans have lost interest, but also because many of the IndyCar fans don't like the event. But give Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon a ride in this year's Brickyard 400 and perhaps some fans would give the NASCAR race a chance.
"Why not?" Dallenbach asked. "Give the winner a good opportunity in a good car I'm sure the Indy 500 winner would jump at it. But NASCAR and IndyCar don't want to work together, so it's all pie-in-the-sky stuff."
By taking away the apron, which is the inside portion of the track in each of the Speedway's distinct four corners, it has narrowed the room cars have, turning it into a "one-groove track." If the Speedway repaved that area and made it part of the racing surface once again, it would open up more room in the turns and might even allow some "side-by-side" passing at the end of the long straightaways and the end of the short chutes on the north and south end of the racetrack.
"Bringing the apron back would certainly help the racing," Dallenbach said. "Give them another 100 horsepower so they have to use more brake when they go into the corner. You go in there and you are using every square inch of that place to get around and it is hard to let them run side-by-side.
"If they let them use the apron and get back to using more of the racetrack I think the race would be better."
When the Brickyard first started, it filled a huge void in the Midwest where the only other NASCAR track was Michigan, which is about five hours up the road from Indianapolis. But with the additions of Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas and, beginning this year, Kentucky, Indianapolis is surrounded by NASCAR competition.
One way to offset that is for NASCAR to become more involved in the Indianapolis community. This year the Speedway will hold the "Largest Sprint Cup Autograph Session of the Year," where nearly every driver will be signing autographs on Friday. This is a great chance for NASCAR fans to get a chance to see their racing heroes up close and personal.
Beginning next season, the Rolex Grand American sports car series will stage a race on Friday around the IMS road course and the NASCAR Nationwide Series will have its first ever race at the Speedway on Saturday, creating a three-day show.
My initial reaction was, "How do you address the issue of bad racing by adding two more bad races?' But I gave it some thought and this certainly can't hurt. At one time the International Race of Champions (IROC) staged races in conjunction with the Brickyard 400, and while the IROC events were snoozers, it at least gave the fans something to watch the day before the race.
This year's schedule at the track is practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday morning and more practice on Saturday, so there really isn't much that would entice fans before Sunday. And while Grand American fans and NASCAR fans generally don't mix, for someone who wants to see a variety of racing at Indianapolis this could be a good start.
When the Brickyard 400 first started, it was an event worthy of "Mount Rushmore" status on the international motor sports calendar. And while it is still mentioned in the same breath as the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, a concerted effort to make it special again would be a tremendous boost for the Brickyard 400.
"At one time it was an event and it needs to get back to being an event," Dallenbach said. "In qualifying and practice we had a ton of people in the grandstands. Now, they can hardly put people in the grandstands for the race. It's lost a little bit of that mystique and we need to get it back somehow. At one time, it was one of those events where [if you asked someone], 'Hey, where do you want to win?' It was the Brickyard and Daytona. It's such a cool place to race."
NASCAR shouldn't let its 45-year dream of racing at Indianapolis continue to dwindle as it has in the past decade.
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