Three Things You’ll Never See At IMS
I realize that it’s a good idea to never say never, but there are a few things that I constantly read or hear people say that should happen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or with the Indianapolis 500; that I feel reasonably sure won’t happen within the next decade or longer. In fact, if I was a betting man – my bet would be that they’ll never happen.
So here is my list of three things that I can say with relative certainty that you’ll never see at the Indy 500 or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway…
NASCAR’s stars will run in the Indianapolis 500 – I can remember when Cale Yarborough, the Allison’s and Lee Roy Yarbrough all came to race in the Indy 500; it was considered quite a big deal. But back then, the Indy 500 and the World 600 (now the Coca-Cola 600) were not held on the same day. In fact, the two races weren’t held on the same day until 1974.
Still, assuming rain wasn’t involved – there was time to finish running the Indy 500 in the afternoon and then race in the 600 that night in Charlotte, NC. Although talked about in hypothetical terms for years, it wasn’t attempted until 1994, when John Andretti drove in a one-off effort for AJ Foyt at Indianapolis to finish tenth, then hopped aboard a private jet bound for Charlotte where he finished thirty-sixth while driving in his full-time ride for Billy Hagan.
Since then, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart have also run the “double”. The last time it happened was in 2004, when Robby Gordon had to yield his Indy ride to Jacques Lazier during a rain delay in order to get to Charlotte on time.
Over the past few years, the starting times for the two races have moved closer together. ABC wanted the 500 to start an hour later while FOX wanted their race to start earlier; making the double barely possible even under the most ideal scenarios.
In all of the “what-ifs” that are part of blogs and talk-radio, the idea of Tony Stewart returning with the armada of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Sam Hornish, Jr. keeps getting thrown out there. I’ve got news for you. It won’t happen.
As intriguing as it may sound, too many factors work against this. First and foremost, until a NASCAR manufacturer also provides engines to the IZOD IndyCar Series, they will not allow one of their top drivers to be seen driving a Honda. Times have changed. Ten years ago, Matt Kenseth drove a Chevy on Saturday’s in the Busch Series and then a Ford on Sunday’s in the Cup race. That won’t happen today. Things have gotten too competitive and the manufacturers are pumping too much money into NASCAR to allow one of their stars to jump into a car with a key competitor’s logo on it.
Also, the car owner’s aren’t keen on having their high-paid drivers put at risk while whizzing around at 230 mph for someone else’s benefit. Open-wheel racing is perceived to be much more dangerous than NASCAR. After all, any safety developments in racing over the last twenty years, such as the SAFER barrier and the HANS device, were all invented by NASCAR – or so they would have us believe.
NASCAR has no interest in having their drivers compete at Indy. Don’t think for a moment they don’t relish the recent failures of open-wheel drivers going over to NASCAR; giving the perception that their form of racing is much tougher. They have no desire for their stars to go to the Indianapolis 500 and fall flat on their collective face and be shown up by the wine and cheese crowd at Indy.
No…the only time you may see Hornish, Stewart or any other NASCAR driver at Indy will be when they are no longer full-time in their own series. At that point, not many people would care or take notice.
There will be night racing at IMS – The Hulman-George family has always tried to be good citizens for the town of Speedway, IN. Although they are aware of the economic impact that their facility has on the area, they are also mindful of the hardships the track can bring. As long as the Hulman-George family owns the Speedway, I don’t see any form of night racing in the future of IMS.
If you’ve ever been to the Indianapolis 500, you’ve seen how long it takes to disperse that many people from the area. Imagine the turmoil caused by turning that many people out into the streets of Speedway at 11:00 pm or later. Plus things are bad enough when the hard-core party people start drinking at 7:00 am as it is now. Add to that mix the more social drinker that wouldn’t think about popping one for breakfast, but would love to start downing them around 4:00 in the afternoon.
It all paints a picture of total chaos on the surrounding streets. If you’ve ever been down 16th Street the night before the 500, you know what I’m talking about. Multiply that many times over the next night and it may be more than the town of Speedway wants to endure.
Plus, the cost to light the oval would be enormous. It would be possible, but probably cost prohibitive. I never thought lights would go up at Wrigley Field or Churchill Downs, and I was proven wrong then – but I just don’t see it happening.
The IZOD IndyCar Series should run a second event on the IMS road course – This is always a popular topic anytime the subject of scheduling comes up. There are many reasons to not do it as opposed to very few why they should. On the plus side, it would be a novelty to see IndyCars turning right at IMS and the teams wouldn’t have travel expenses. Other than that, I don’t see any reason to do it.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is looking for new markets to sell their product. Face it; they’ve got central Indiana pretty well sewn up. And with three major events already at IMS that no longer sell out, I don’t think the local market could sustain a fourth event. They certainly don’t want to draw fans away from the 500 or their other two events. Plus, it would be a black eye if there were mostly empty seats for a road course event at the facility that is the focal point for the series.
Of the three scenarios that I’ve discussed here – I think it might be the most likely to take place, but I just don’t see it happening. The negatives far outweigh the positives.
So what do you think? Will we see Gordon, Stewart and the like running in the Indianapolis 500? Will the Indy 500 or any other event at IMS be run after sundown? Will IndyCars ever turn right on purpose at the Speedway? I doubt it – what about you?