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NASCAR in India? An Overview of Motorsports on the Subcontinent

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Joshua Lipowski

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Ever since Garage 56’s performance at Le Mans, NASCAR has seemingly been looking at where to potentially expand internationally. Adam Stern tweeted about a country that many may not have originally thought of.

India is probably not the first place that NASCAR fans thought of when it comes to places to expand. However, India does have a motorsports history, and it does have venues to race at. What does racing in India look like?

The History of Motorsports in India

Professional motorsports in India is a relatively recent fad. However, India found itself at the highest level of motorsports beginning in the mid-2000s.

Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian Formula One driver in 2005, running for the Jordan Grand Prix team. His best finish was a fourth in the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix. However, a massive asterisk needs to be added to that.

Karthikeyan was one of only six drivers to start that race due to tire failures for a majority of the grid. His teammate Tiago Monteiro would finish third. Karthikeyan was out of F1 by the end of the season.

In the interim, he would run in different racing series including running nine NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Races in 2010. Running the 60 car for Jeff Wyler, Karthikeyan would have a best finish of 11th, and he returned to Formula One for 2011 and 2012.

Karun Chandhok would become the next Indian Formula One driver running 11 races between 2010 and 2011. He now works as a broadcaster on Sky Sports F1 coverage.

During this time, India also had a Formula One Team. Force India was founded in 2008, and they would have modest success in F1 before going into administration in 2018. This would effectively end the team’s time in F1.

F1 even had a race in India in the early 2010s at the new Buddh International Circuit. Sebastian Vettel clinched his fourth F1 World Championship at the last race at the track in 2013. Moto GP intends to hold a race in India late this fall, but India has been largely devoid of major motorsports for a while.

Racing Venues in India

In order for NASCAR to race in India, there has to be race tracks for them to go to. India does have a few places that NASCAR could choose to go.

Buddh International Circuit

The most prominent venue is the Buddh International Circuit, which is a 3.1 mile road course. It hosted Formula One between 2011 and 2013, but it has its’ fair share of issues.

According to Christian Sylt Forbes.com, the race was supposed to be held for two more seasons, but the race was called-off after only three seasons. Eventually, Liberty Media had to pay $14.8 million in 2017 as a part of a tax dispute with the track according to Sylt. Yeah this is not the best look for a race track.

Hyderabad Street Circuit

This circuit was built for Formula E, and it hosted the 2023 Hyderabad ePrix. It’s a shorter race track being 1.7 miles in length. If the Chicago Street Race succeeds, and NASCAR wants to run more street races, this could be an option.

However, Formula E cars are not exactly the same as NASCAR cars. Their circuits tend to reflect that, so it is uncertain whether or not this track would suit NASCAR.

Madras International Circuit

Madras International Circuit is a 2.3 mile road course, and it is one of India’s first race tracks. The problem with this circuit is that it has not hosted any major notable racing series, as it mainly is reserved for lower categories. This is probably not much of an option for NASCAR.

Conclusion

Motorsports in India is a relatively new thing with a shaky history. As a result, NASCAR moving there could be seen as a risk. With that being said, the venues are there if NASCAR decides to go there.

Another thing to factor in is that India is currently the most populated country in the world according to World Population Review. It is also a market that Formula One is currently out of. If NASCAR wants to seize a massive market that Formula One is currently not in, India may be the place to do it.

Unlikely as it may be, India is an intriguing option for NASCAR to look at. If NASCAR wants to go international, then they must look at every option possible.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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