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Should NASCAR Rotate Between the Indianapolis Road Course and Oval?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Today, NASCAR and Goodyear are conducting a tire test on the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Many theorize that this will foreshadow a move from the IMS road course to the oval for 2024 and possibly beyond. However, some such as Jett MDK have suggested the idea of rotating.

Would this move work? Let’s take a look at what this could mean and whether or not it is a good idea.

Benefit: Variety in the Schedule

It was not long ago when people complained that the NASCAR schedule was stale. Between 2002 and 2020, only two new race tracks were added to the schedule, Kentucky and the Charlotte Roval. People also complained that there were too many race tracks that felt the same.

If NASCAR decided to switch between the two layouts at Indianapolis every year, that would create some automatic variety in the schedule. Part of what makes Charlotte Motor Speedway a more intriguing venue than before aside from the improved racing is that you see a completely different style of racing in the fall than you do on Memorial Day weekend. Indianapolis and NASCAR can capitalize on that by putting a race at a venue that is completely different from the race the season before.

Detractor: Confusing Brand

Branding and marketing are huge when it comes to making a race successful. If a casual fan sees a race at the Indianapolis Oval one season, and then comes back the next season only to see a road course race, it could be confusing. The Brickyard 400 would never become a “crown jewel” again simply because it is not a race that happens every year.

It would be hard for the NASCAR race at Indianapolis to develop a true identity once again if the race is different depending on the season. The main thing that people would know it for is being a race that constantly changes itself every year.

Benefit: Something for Everybody

Different race fans have different tastes. Some race fans like the “beating and banging” of short track racing. Other fans prefer the more technical and strategic flavor of a road course. Others prefer the high speeds of super speedways.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway could offer two completely different races depending on the year. If you don’t like the Indianapolis race you saw this year, then come back next year to see a different type of racing. Those on both sides of the argument each get a little bit of what they want.

Detractor: One Race May Be More Intriguing to Fans than the Other

It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where fans are split exactly 50/50 on the road course versus the oval. For one reason or another, a preference will likely begin to emerge amongst the drivers and the fanbase.

Once that preference emerges, then the years the race is on the preferred layout will have significantly more positive publicity surrounding it. The years the race is not on the preferred layout, the publicity surrounding it would be far more negative. It’s possible that the two could co-exist in a happy medium, but, that’s not normally how public opinion works.

Benefit: Potentially Keep the IndyCar/NASCAR Doubleheader

The IndyCar/NASCAR Doubleheader element of the Indianapolis race weekend is great for fans attending the race. It gives them not only a big-league NASCAR race but also a big-league IndyCar race to watch on the same weekend. Without the Indianapolis Road Course, that doubleheader could be in jeopardy.

Going to the Indianapolis Road Course every other year could give a good location to do that doubleheader in certain years, and the executives could get creative to see where they could hold it in other years.

Detractor: Why Bring that Back only Every Other Year?

Now, if NASCAR and IndyCar are forced to do the Doubleheader at Indianapolis only every other season, that creates headaches for both schedules. How do they coordinate which tracks they go to year-to-year, and would the tracks even be willing to do this just for a one-year doubleheader weekend?

It’s definitely not an ideal scenario, so, is a doubleheader weekend even feasible? There is a question to be asked about whether or not forcing this to work is even worth it given whether or not it would benefit both sides.

This is definitely an interesting idea. As for whether or not NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would actually implement it, that is much murkier. Regardless, the times may be changing for NASCAR at Indianapolis.

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Joshua Lipowski

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