Somehow, This Needs To Happen

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Last Thursday, I had lunch with an old friend and former co-worker. It’s been about four years since we’ve worked together, as he has moved on to bigger and better things. He has been a life-long NASCAR fan, but in the time we worked together – I enlightened him on the virtues of IndyCar racing.

Over lunch, we began discussing what has been going on in the IndyCar offseason. While he seemed bored with some of the things I brought up, his ears perked when I mentioned something that has at least entered the talking stage – a NASCAR/IndyCar double-header weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

I was a little surprised with his first comment, when he said “…I didn’t think the tires were compatible”. When I first heard about this concept, the difference in tire compounds between Firestone and Goodyear left on the track, was the last thing on my mind.

When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the idea. On the front-end, it sounds like a win-win – especially for spectators. Fans can travel to one city for a four-day weekend and see two days of open-wheel racing and two days of stock car racing at one track. If you’re a racing fan that likes to attend races in person, you just died and went to heaven.

But after thinking about it, I actually had mixed emotions about it. This is not an original idea. In fact, it’s an idea that has been tossed about for years. But NASCAR always put a damper on things before the idea ever had wings. They were not interested in anything that would help IndyCar gain any exposure.

It almost seemed that they were afraid to let their own fans see an IndyCar race in person. Perhaps they were afraid that in a side-by-side comparison, their fans would realize that IndyCar had better racing, sexier cars and allowed fans to get real close to their drivers. Any time a track or a promoter proposed such an idea of a double-header weekend, it was always NASCAR who quickly put an end to such talk.

Now the tables have turned. While NASCAR still gets ratings that IndyCar can only dream about currently, the individual sports are on different trajectories. IndyCar is seeing slight increases in TV ratings and attendance, while NASCAR has been plummeting with both.

Is it a coincidence that NASCAR has decided to entertain the notion, now that their ratings and attendance figures are in the tank? The selfish and spiteful side of me says “let them drown”, but the racing enthusiast side of me says “bring it on”.

Last Tuesday night, the topic was debated on Trackside. They brought up some interesting points I hadn’t thought of; things like signage of competing sponsors. The obvious one is Firestone for IndyCar and Goodyear for NASCAR. But Chevy probably wouldn’t want any Ford branding anywhere in sight for the IndyCar part of the weekend, nor would Honda want Toyota to get any free publicity while they are racing.

Then there’s the question of who goes first. If I’m IndyCar, I don’t want to be the one relegated to Thursday and Friday, while NASCAR gets full weekend slots of Saturday and Sunday. But flip it and NASCAR probably wouldn’t like that either. Do you do it two years in a row and alternate the days over both years? If Year Two is a bust, whoever got the bad slot the first year gets no benefit the next year.

What about weather? If it rains out a Thursday or Friday, your whole weekend is messed up. Would it be better to do this on a road course that would not be near as affected by rain?

In Robin Miller’s mailbag, someone did bring up a possibility that will make fans of either series salivate – a swap-off practice, where drivers from both series would swap cars with the other discipline. While that would certainly be interesting, I say take it a step further. Have it at a road course (Watkins Glen perhaps?) and have each series bring a few extra cars. Select five drivers from each series to race in both races.

I say road course because it lessens the chance of serious damage or injury in case of a crash. Wouldn’t you like to see Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr. or Kevin Harvick in an Indy car? What about Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden or Alexander Rossi in a stock car? I know I would certainly tune in for both races, for a chance to watch that.

Of course you have to work it out with sponsors. What would Chevy think about Newgarden wearing a Ford blue-oval on his driving suit? How would Honda like it if Rossi was driving a Toyota? Would these conflicts be a deal-killer? Possibly.

This is a long way from happening, if it ever happens. The earliest it could, would probably be in 2020 – maybe later.

But the more I thought about the whole concept, the more I liked it. Being the old-fashioned guy that I am, this appeals to me. It takes me back to when AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti were winning the Daytona 500; and Cale Yarborough, the Allisons and Bobby Johns were running the Indianapolis 500. Remember, Jim Clark tried his hand at NASCAR in 1967 at Rockingham, running as high as thirteenth before his Ford engine blew on Lap 146 – giving him a thirtieth place finish.

With bickering and competing sponsors, there is less and less crossing over between series. Kurt Busch created a mild sensation when he came over to run the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Fernando Alonso caused a media frenzy when he ran the 2017 “500”. He is already making waves saying he may run in next year’s Daytona 500. If Alonso is running some IndyCar races at the time, can you imagine a weekend when he runs both races in each discipline? That would be something to see.

So even though I’m a little miffed that NASCAR is considering a double-header now that they’re semi-desperate – I’d like to see this happen, and so would the old friend I had lunch with. In fact, this needs to happen somehow. Not only that, I’d like to attend – wherever and whenever it happens.

George Phillips

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13 Responses to “Somehow, This Needs To Happen”

  1. I’m not sure I would stay for the NASCAR race. I done like their rules, their cars or their races. I see the double header as a good thing for both series but I don’t watch NASCAR on tv and have no interest in seeing it in person even for an event like this

  2. BrandonWright77 Says:

    I think the sponsor conflicts alone would prevent this from ever happening. It’s not a bad idea but even though I often find myself watching on tv, I’m one that wouldn’t hang around for a NASCAR race either, at least not for the entire thing. Too long and too boring. Might check out Xfinity or Trucks though, they usually put on a decent show and it doesn’t take half the day to run the race.

  3. Gordon Martinez Says:

    At Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR Truck Series has shared with IndyCar for years so this idea is expanding upon what had been going on for many years

  4. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    If it happens please be on a road course. I never liked the 1.5 mile ovals like Chicagoland.

  5. Leslie E Bissell Says:

    This is a bad idea for lots of reasons. I don’t think there is enough cross-over in the fan base to make it work. I certainly have no interest in it. I don’t understand the enthusiasm for the idea at all. It seems to be a bad deal for Indy Car.

  6. I disagree that this “needs” to happen. I would not walk across a street with a free ticket or turn on my TV to watch any nascar race on an oval. Nascar did put on a interesting show at Road America years ago with Danica Patrick running second until she got pushed off the track in turn 5 by that chrome horn Gillynoof guy.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Much like the Trackside crew, I think this “needs” to happen at tracks that have really struggled to draw and would benefit from having two top-level races on the schedule. The track this was apparently discussed for, Chicagoland, certainly fits the bill. Fontana would be another track where this might work. While it wouldn’t be a joint weekend with Cup, I would be curious to see IndyCar at Cup’s former fall date in New Hampshire, running with the Modifieds.

    I’m not sure track signage is really much of a barrier to this happening. While Sprint signage was covered up by Verizon banners when Sprint was still involved in NASCAR, other signage has remained untouched in my observation. Texas does not cover up the Firestone, DXC, or NTT Data billboards during NASCAR race weekends. Pocono leaves the General Tire signage up at all races, and that’s an ARCA (!!!) sponsor and supplier. Even if signage had to be covered up, I doubt that is a major ordeal.

    The tire compatibility issue does not seem to be an unjumpable hurdle at Texas, Iowa, or Gateway, all of which have seen IndyCar paired with a stock car series for the weekend that runs a different tire. I am sure it is more of a challenge than it appears to be, though.

  8. Two things: First this is an idea that is long overdue for serious consideration from both sides. I would love to see it either at Michigan or Chicagoland, though I think the PERFECT place for this would be Pocono, Unfortunately, Pocono has no lights, so it would mean (in my opinion) one series would run Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday afternoon.

    All that said, the one thing that (again, my opinion) spoils the whole idea is doing this at a road course. Both circuits were founded on ovals (or the Beach,) and while IndyCar puts on a good show on ovals, NASCAR is, in MOST cases boring when they do twisties.

    In my vision, one series would race on Saturday night, the other on Sunday afternoon. If both series committed to this for a two year trial, they could alternate race days. It also opens the idea of IndyCar returning to Charlotte, but please, NOT on the “roval.” When first I heard about this idea, my first thought was it would be a nice early season possibility to return IndyCar to Vegas.

    Suffice it to say, many IndyCar fans shot this idea or that of ANY return to Vegas EVER down. Most of those folks weren’t born when IndyCar fatalities were far more common. It matters not to them that we are two generations of cars down the road from the Wheldon tragedy; nor does it matter that the current model car is not conducive to pack racing which was as big a contributor to the Vegas
    accident as the fence.

    Many of us who crave more ovals want someplace to run BEFORE Indianapolis. Phoenix seemed like a good option, but now that’s gone, probably never to return. Vegas offers IndyCar the proper climate for an early season oval, but NASCAR has the early season date there. This is why it would seem to me to be ideal for IndyCar and NASCAR to share a weekend, especially since ANYTHING in Vegas is going to be promoted and heavily.

    • BrandonWright77 Says:

      NASCAR boring on the twisties? Those are some of my favorite, and in my opinion most exciting, races of the year across all of motorsports. Love watching those taxicabs bounce over the kerbs and beat and bang with each other. Just my opinion, of course. 🙂

  9. I have been wondering lately if–considering the dwindling, aging audience for automobile racing–it might be best for both series to try to work together in some fashion. How much or how often I have no idea but I think there are places where you could fill some bleachers (or spectator mounds) with a double-header. Road America, Texas, Austin, Chicago, the new Charlotte twisty thing, Kentucky. On the other hand I’d hate to see Indycar be the opening act for Nascar.

  10. redcar, my congratulations: “aging audience”
    is the exact right phrase for all motor sports.

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