The Thrill Is Gone: Racing At Indianapolis Motor Speedway

racing at Indy

That was embarrassing. Last Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a complete dud. Guess it’s a good thing no one was there to see it. You have to imagine that the camera crew for NBCSN would have done anything in their power to keep the grandstands out of the shots. That the show of nostalgia between legends Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon after the race was the highlight of the day tells you everything you need to know.

There once was time when the concept of a NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was highly anticipated. Derided by open wheel racing fans as taxi cab races, NASCAR fans were eager for a stamp of validation by racing at motorsports’ most hallowed site. But let’s be honest, racing at the brickyard has always been more about WHO won the race, rather than HOW the race quality was.

Seeing Hoosiers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman win races at their home track was a big deal. Jeff Gordon victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were a big deal for the adopted Indiana native’s star-studded resume. Indy will always hold a special place in the heart of Paul Menard. His 2011 victory at the brickyard has provided an exclamation point to an otherwise quiet career.

Whether it was Sunday’s parade or the tire-related debacle in 2008, the racing itself has never been much about which you could write home. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an open wheel track. It’s just that simple. After the first few years that followed NASCAR’s 1994, attendance has fallen dramatically. It’s really not a mystery. The race popularly known as the Brickyard 400 just isn’t the experience it once was.

This isn’t a slam on Indiana. Lucas Oil Raceway comes to mind as one other possibility. It’s just that racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t what it once was. And it has rarely been about the racing itself.