Oval or road course? Or both?
The future of NASCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not been confirmed, but recent industry chatter has the sport very likely returning to the oval in 2024. Although the change isn’t offical, Goodyear is tire testing Monday and Tuesday on the oval to make sure they are prepared for the future.
Doug Boles, IMS president, will be among those eagerly plugged into the test. But Boles also has some thoughts on the future of the NASCAR weekend at the Brickyard, telling SiriusXM NASCAR Radio a lot depends on how the Goodyear tire test goes, but also throwing out that perhaps there is a conversation to be had about rotating the oval and road course race, which would also keep the NASCAR and NTT IndyCar shared weekend.
“I do think that it’s no secret the oval, the Brickyard 400, started out as packed — sold out practically — and toward the end, it wasn’t really that,” Indiana native Chase Briscoe said. “I think we had to do something to switch it up as a sport to get it back. Obviously, we lost a crown jewel doing that, but I do think maybe that’s a possibility. You run the road course every two or three years in a row, bring the oval back the fourth year or something because it definitely seemed like when we ran the oval every year, it did lose a little bit.
“Truthfully, with this Next Gen car and how it’s raced on the ovals, it might be this incredible race, so I don’t know. I wouldn’t be against running the oval the next three or four years, but at the same time I wouldn’t be against switching back and forth. I do think it’s hard to have a crown jewel on the schedule and take it away, bring it back, take it away. If we’re going to do it, I would love to see it be a mainstay, at least for a couple of years.”
Briscoe will be one of the drivers participating in the Goodyear test. A car from each manufacturer will be included, so alongside Briscoe (Ford) will be Ty Gibbs (Toyota) and Alex Bowman (Chevrolet).
“I think it’s (about) seeing how the test goes,” Tyler Reddick said of the future of Indianapolis. “A lot of folks in NASCAR — even for me, honestly — I enjoy being on the oval, but we need it to be a good race. We need to be able to race each other. What we kind of departed from, and the style of racing we had here, was it was just very difficult to do anything.
“If we really can’t race each other well and pass, I don’t know if we really should run the oval. We’ll see shortly. If it works out to where we can run both, I think a lot of the die-hard NASCAR fans would love to see the oval only back, but you’ll never hear me complain about road course racing.”
For some, like Ryan Blaney, just being at Indianapolis in any capacity is special. On the contrary, Denny Hamlin said the oval is needed for the prestige of Indianapolis.
“We need to run the oval at least once,” Hamlin said of having the oval or the road course on the schedule.
There have been plenty of drivers over the three years – since NASCAR made the switch to the road course – that haven’t hidden their dislike of driving the wrong way across the yard of bricks.
Kevin Harvick is retiring from competition at the end of this year and has been one of the most outspoken drivers about NASCAR needing to run the oval. Harvick acknowledged Saturday that, even though he won’t be driving next season as he moves into the Fox Sports booth, he still cares about what race NASCAR runs at Indianapolis.
“I have a big stake in caring about where this all goes, and sitting in the TV booth…my role is not driving anymore, but it’s very much a part of this sport that has kind of shaped my life and given me all the things that I have,” Harvick said. “I want to be involved and understand and make it better as you go forward and just doing something different. I’m all about mixing things up.
“I just think it’s a matter of what brings people to the grandstands and who watches on TV, and the amount of eyeballs you can move the needle with. Obviously, we did that with the Clash; we did that with the street course, so there are ways to do it. It’s just a matter of what that is. There are so many things that go into the mixture of what’s right and what’s wrong for the sport, the track, the people, the sponsors. There are a lot of elements that have to be talked through in order to make a good decision for everybody.”
NASCAR is not expected to release the 2024 schedule until September.