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What Went Down at NASCAR’s Indianapolis Test?

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What’s Happening?

On Tuesday, three NASCAR Cup Series cars took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for a Goodyear tire test. What happened during the test, and what insight do we have into the racing product we will see at Indianapolis?

  • After a three-year hiatus, NASCAR is set to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval this July for the 30th anniversary of the Brickyard 400. This comes after three years on the road course at Indianapolis amidst negative reaction to the racing product and a steep decline in attendance.
  • There is much skepticism about returning to the oval due to the racing product. NASCAR and the track did not mesh well in the past, but will the Next-Gen car be the boost the oval needs?
  • Some fans are excited to see the Brickyard 400 return. However, others are unsure how the race will be on the oval.

Kyle Busch Crashes

The biggest story of the day was Kyle Busch, a two-time Brickyard 400 winner, spinning into the outside wall on the backstretch during the test. Busch was not hurt in the incident.

NASCAR and Indianapolis have a checkered past when it comes to tires. The 2008 Brickyard 400 was infamous for tires that could not last more than 10 or 12 laps. NASCAR had to throw six competition cautions that day after multiple tire failures to ensure drivers could finish the race.

Many speculated about what caused Busch’s crash, including tires. However, Jayski reports that Goodyear quickly stated that the crash was not tire-related.

If the crash was not mechanical or tire-related, that could say much about the type of race we will see in July. A narrow groove and a hot, slick race track could make the track very treacherous.

This means there could be a lot of spins, mistakes, and crashes, especially on a track the Next-Gen car has never been to. Remember the Next-Gen car’s first practice session for a points race on a non-superspeedway at Auto Club Speedway in 2022?

Indy has produced both races with many incidents and with very few incidents. Five races at the track had four or fewer caution flags (1995, 2000, 2009, 2013, and 2014). However, five have produced 10 or more caution flags (2004, 2005, 2008, 2017, and 2018), with a record of 14 set in 2017.

What Drivers Had to Say

Only one driver, Denny Hamlin, spoke to the media following the Tuesday test. He told the official Indianapolis Motor Speedway social media page that the oval suits the Next-Gen car better.

This car is actually made better for the oval in my opinion. It’s got enough drag where drafting will be a factor when it comes down to it. I think that, generally speaking, restarts will be crazy and it’s going to be about track position, execution on pit road, and who is able to master the car on short run and the long run.

Denny Hamlin

Drafting is part of what makes the Indianapolis 500 at the same track such a compelling show. There’s constant slingshotting and passing all throughout the field, especially at the front.

NASCAR hasn’t been able to capture that same magic at Indianapolis. In 2017, they tried to use a restrictor-plate type package in the Xfinity Series, which produced more lead changes than any Xfinity Series race at the track to that point. However, it also made it very difficult to pass without the draft.

Indy is a single-groove track, so dirty air will be an issue no matter what. This, combined with how close the Next-Gen car is in lap time, means passing could be tough, and Hamlin seems to expect that by saying this will be a “Track position race.” Much like past Indy races, at least one driver expects it will be about strategy.

The closest comparison we can make to Indianapolis is Pocono, which is 2.5 miles long and relatively flat. Generally speaking, it’s a one-groove track as well. However, fans have generally enjoyed Pocono, as evidenced by Jeff Gluck’s “Was it a Good Race?” poll, which has both Next-Gen Pocono races in the top 5 in the poll’s history (14 races).

It seems Indy could be very similar to Pocono. Some incidents could occur due to cars trying to make aggressive moves to complete difficult passes. Still, it’s also possible the race could get strung out with long, green flag runs, becoming all about strategy and execution.

Overall, Indianapolis is a major unknown, but it seems the tire test has been going well, at least to this point. What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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Joshua Lipowski

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