It’s a question racing fans ask Doug Boles whenever they see him wandering the IndyCar race grounds outside of May: when will the NASCAR Cup Series return to the track? oval that makes Indianapolis Motor Speedway the racing capital of the world?
Boles, the president of IMS, and track owner Roger Penske have not been shy about broaching the subject of the lightning rod in the three years since NASCAR last ran a real Brickyard 400 during the summer at IMS, with the former saying in September 2021 that consideration was being given to alternate Cup racing between the oval and the road course one way or another in the future. Penske told reporters definitely a year ago at a press conference that a return to the oval as early as 2024 could be in the cards.
The momentum continues to head in that direction, with Greg Stucker, director of racing tire sales for NASCAR tire partner Goodyear, telling SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last week that a two-day tire test was scheduled for the next month with the Next Gen Cup car on the oval immediately following the August 13 Verizon 200 at The Brickyard.
Stucker clarified that no formal and final decision has been made as to which track the cup series will follow when it returns to IMS in 2024, although a timetable is usually announced within the next eight weeks.
“We just feel like there’s enough talk around a possible return to the oval in the future, so let’s go ahead and take the opportunity to get on this circuit, the oval setup with the Next Gen car,” said Stucker. “We didn’t run the Next Gen car on the oval – we only did that on the road course – and I’d hate to talk about it, but the last time we took a new car to Indy (on the oval), it didn’t go so well.
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In 2008, NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow visited IMS for the first time for an edition of The Brickyard that would live in infamy and marked a significant drop in the race’s in-person attendance and general local popularity. The grid could hardly manage 10 laps without the tires starting to burst or disintegrate, forcing series officials to issue competition warnings every 10 to 12 laps in a race ultimately won by Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR had conducted a tire test in April 2008 with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers, and no glaring issues with possibly problematic right-side tires emerged at the time. The problem began to surface during practice on Saturday, and on Sunday the series had a real disaster on its hands, with Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, telling reporters after the race: “It’s obvious that we didn’t go. with the right car-tire combination. We have raced on this surface for the past four years and realized that we would not ask them to change this surface. We have to do a better job.
Then-CEO Tony George accused NASCAR of not spending enough time and effort to ensure that tomorrow’s car’s debut in the Brickyard 400 would go off without a hitch. Several tests with different teams, drivers and numbers of participants will take place over the next 12 months, but the damage is done.
Clearly NASCAR and Goodyear have learned their lesson.
“We want to stay ahead of the curve and have a first look, so that if a decision is made in the future to return to the oval, we at least have a good starting point with this car, and we can go from there.” ,” Stucker said last week. “We always felt like we had to come back to Indy a few times to test and prepare for the oval race, if that was going to be the decision, and we thought it was a good opportunity to race, collect some data and see where it stands.
“And we’ll see how that surface has aged in the few years since we’ve raced on it.”
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IndyCar calendar implications
If NASCAR and IMS agreed to scrap — even temporarily — its road course experience at Speedway, such a move would likely have repercussions for IndyCar, which has held an additional road race and shared it with NASCAR since the pandemic has made it a necessity. in 2020. Switching the track between its oval and road configurations, safety-wise, takes almost an entire day, so switching back and forth between open-wheel and stock- because on track session to session during the single days would simply not be feasible.
Running completely segmented days for the series would make IndyCar, which already feels separated in the event’s weekend format as is, even more so.
A green light for the Cup to return to the oval, given Penske Entertainment Corp. Chairman and CEO Mark Miles’ assertion earlier this month that IndyCar would remain at 17 races paying for 2024, would then likely indicate a replacement event to retain the number of races. stable. Barring a contender out of left field, the Milwaukee Mile, where Roger Penske visited in June to take stock of his latest security upgrades and discuss a possible future event, would be a contender apart. whole.