To watch, or not to watch, that is the question. I believe NASCAR made a huge mistake when they decided to move the XFINITY Series race from Lucas Oil Raceway across town to the “big track” Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) back in 2012.
At the time former NASCAR president Mike Helton said, “Everybody wants to grow, and we’re no different than that. I think it speaks to the commitment that NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have with each other to better the future of motorsports to create a truly world-class event here in July in the middle of our season, which gives us a great moment to look to.”
Helton, NASCAR and IMS management wanted to create a super Brickyard weekend, but as we head into the 2017 Brickyard weekend I wonder if NASCAR is ready to admit that Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas was right when he said, “They might make that weekend bigger, but I can’t see them having any fans,” back when the move was announced?
Sadly, the move from a short track gem to a big track gem is one of many bad decisions NASCAR made, where they put self and financial gain in front of competition and fan popularity. In my opinion, it’s an example of how NASCAR fell into the trap of corporate protectionism. You might be asking, “Dang SOZ what do you mean by that you crazy freak?” Well, I’ve noticed that just about every decision made by NASCAR (during the Brian France era) is done to protect industry insiders by creating policies where those who provide true value reap the NASCAR benefits…to simplify it – the “if you have the money we have the time” mentality – no matter if it hurts ratings or popularity.
In the case of the move to IMS – NASCAR, their XFINITY teams and IMS needed a financial boost. At the time, Dale Earnhardt Jr., said about his team, “I’m excited because I can probably sell a Nationwide [now XFINITY Series] race at Indianapolis. I can’t sell Lucas Oil Raceway or those kind of races, I can only sell races that are easier to sell with the Cup guys in conjunction. So I’m excited about that. I’ll be able to come here and probably get a good deal for this race and that will help me financially for the team.”
There you go. It’s about the money and not the fans – straight from the mouth of NASCAR’s most popular personality.
Luckily for NASCAR even the XFINITY drivers liked the idea of racing at the big track. IMS is a special place and for most drivers it’s a dream come true to race at IMS. But for me, when NASCAR and IMS moved the XFINITY Series race, it cheapened the value of the track in my eyes. I personally like it when you’ve got to graduate from one series to the next and do something that can’t be done in the lower series – like race at the Brickyard. Heck, if everyone can do it what makes it so special? And in this case it not only hurts the prestigious level of the Brickyard, frankly it’s a terrible race.
Scanning social media over the years it’s hard to find a group of racing fans who love this XFINITY Series race at IMS – especially when you compare it to the short track fun we saw at Lucas Oil Raceway. Maybe NASCAR thought after a few years we would forget about the short track excitement we experienced on that Saturday night before the Brickyard 400. But I have not forgotten and I would like to see NASCAR reverse course and return to short track racing during this annual weekend.
How can we as fans make this happen? This takes me back to the beginning of this column – to watch, or not to watch, that is the question. I would hate to call for an IMS XFINITY Series boycott – because I’m not a fan of public boycotts, but I do believe NASCAR simply doesn’t care about you and me…to the point that even a boycott wouldn’t matter to them. If it did – they [NASCAR] would have already taken noticed since 45% of their fan base are now gone.
But I will say this – if you choose not to attend or watch this weekend’s XFINITY Series race at IMS I won’t blame you. This may be a good Saturday to finally get some of those honey-do-items checked off the list. Thanks NASCAR for the Saturday off!
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