Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SuperWeekend at Indy On Tap

Rolex GrandAm will race Indy for the first time
It's a great week for racing in Indianapolis so I hope you get out to see some of it. While the IZOD Indycar Series has the weekend off, just about everyone else is racing around here, although you won't get to see the Camping World Truck Series here this year. The annual NASCAR pilgrimage to Indy is already underway for this year's Brickyard 400 but there have been some (much needed) changes so keep your eyes on the weekend schedule. For the first time ever, the Rolex GrandAm and Continental Tire Challenge series will bring sports car racing to the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The recent open test was eye opening for many in the sports car world, and these series will put on great races this Friday, when they have the track to themselves for the whole day.

Nationwide drivers take on the big track Thursday & Saturday
The action at IMS starts on Thursday with the Nationwide Series running the oval for afternoon practice sessions before the track gets converted to road course configuration overnight for GrandAm. Unfortunately for some, this weekend will not include NASCAR racing on one of the best short tracks around:  the paved 5/8 mile at Lucas Oil Raceway (LOR) in Clermont a couple of miles west of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The truck series run at LOR is over for the time being and when this schedule change (and the move of the Nationwide race to IMS) was announced last year, there were some hard feelings after both series races had been such a huge part of the Brickyard weekend for years.

GrandAm tested the IMS road course 
It will be very interesting to see if the shift of Nationwide racing to IMS will help bolster the weekend crowd as I'm sure IMS and NASCAR are hoping, but my money is on the GrandAm race drawing a bigger crowd than the Nationwide race, even though NASCAR has Danica Patrick returning this year for her first chance to drive a stock car at Indy after numerous starts in the Indy 500. The biggest problem with the Brickyard weekend in years past has been lack of track activity ever since the IROC support race went away, so no one will be able to complain about that this year, as the track will be full from Thursday through Sunday.

Lucas Oil Raceway will still have its share of action this week even without the trucks and Nationwide events, so when the day is over at IMS, hop on US 136 West to Clermont and check it out if you haven't gotten your fill of racing exhaust and the smell of hot tires after running concludes at the Speedway. This year, both the USAC Silver Crown and National Midget series have the LOR track to themselves on Thursday July 26th for open wheel racing under the lights. 

ARCA racing returned to Lucas Oil Raceway in 2011
The next night, Friday July 27th, the ARCA stock car racers will take to LOR for 200 laps; I have the privilege of shooting that event for ARCA following a similar assignment at Winchester recently, so check the ARCA website for photos late Friday night and early Saturday. The bad news with this assignment is I will miss the inaugural GrandAm races at IMS and I know they will put on a helluva show for sports car fans like they always do. The good news is I love ARCA racing for its bevy of future stars like Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher and numerous others who race for their futures at all kinds of tracks. Last year the ARCA darling was Ty Dillon who is doing quite well in the truck series this year. If you're a fan of short track stock car racing, you won't want to miss this ARCA event to see these young guns battle on LOR's flat track. You can tell your kids "you saw them when..."!

Paul Menard got his only Sprint Cup win at Indy in 2011
I will be covering the rest of the weekend for American Motor Journal again this year. I expect the Nationwide race on Saturday to be quite interesting with so many drivers tackling Indy's big flat corners and long straightaways for the first time. Saturday's schedule at IMS is jammed with Nationwide and Sprint Cup qualifying along with the Nationwide race, and starting up front is always a key at Indy as "clean air" and "aero push" are terms you will likely hear a million times Saturday and Sunday. The weekend wraps up with the big show on Sunday with the 18th running of the Brickyard 400. Who will kiss the bricks this year? And can the schedule changes overcome the last few years of controversy (tiregate, the Montoya penalty, etc.,) and shrinking attendance at IMS for this signature event? The weather forecast continues to be hotter than blazes in Indy but that's nothing new for this event weekend. I'll be spending a lot of time on the westside this weekend, so I hope you make it out too. See you at the track!

The ARCA series raced well at Lucas Oil Raceway last year; expect more of the same this year.

Can Paul Menard defend his 2011 Brickyard title?
Will Scott Pruett (Telmex Ganassi 01) get his first win at Indy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jay!

It sounds Indy will be a lot of fun this weekend.

Gary (Chiefswon)