Not a lot has changed on the track about the Brickyard 400 since it first appeared on the schedule in 1994.
There wasn’t a lot of passing on Sunday and there was some chatter from the NASCAR community that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn’t produce captivating racing for stock cars.
Two-time Brickyard 400 winner Tony Stewart responded after the race that there was a difference between ‘racing’ and ‘passing,’ requesting that everyone look up the two in the dictionary. For the sake of reference, we have:
Racing: Any sport that involves competing in races; moving swiftly
Passing: Going past; the passage of something
“If you want to see passing, we can go out on (highway) 465 and pass all you want…” Stewart said. “This is about racing. This is about cars being fast. It doesn’t have to be two- and three-wide racing all day long to be good racing.
“Racing is about figuring out how to take the package you’re allowed and make it better than what everybody else has and do a better job with it.”
And to be honest, he’s absolutely right.
The history of motorsports is littered with great races decided by pit strategy and the efforts to limit the amount of time a driver spends on pit road.
Sunday’s race was decided on the final pit stop, for example. Ryan Newman’s crew took tires and Jimmie Johnson’s took a little bit of extra time to take four and the difference ended up being 2.6-seconds in Newman’s favor.
Winning under these conditions requires elite engineering, talent across the board and teamwork and that’s indeed ‘racing’ no matter how you define it.
The only glaring issue with his comments is that these conditions are traditionally found in IndyCar and Formula 1 and NASCAR has found success catering to the fan-base who demands passing. The sport was founded on close side-by-side action and fans are not getting served at tracks like Indianapolis or Pocono, the site of this weekend’s GoBowling.com400.
That’s not to say the product can’t be improved.
Carl Edwards addressed the topic in the garage after the race and explained how he would attempt to remedy the problem at the two venues that share many of the same qualities.
“When you rely on downforce and your car is going 200 mph and everything has to be perfect and there is a car up there in front of you that disrupts that air, it just becomes difficult,” Edwards said. “There were guys back in 2008 where I was the only guy that could pass people. Right now it seems like the 48 (Johnson) is able to make it work.
“I don’t know that there is a fundamental problem with the car but I would be really curious to see what no front splitter and a really tiny rear spoiler would do.”
In theory, the lack of downforce could make the cars a little more unstable in clean air, decreasing the value that track position has in deciding races and increase passing. NASCAR has been really aggressive in working with Goodyear to find the perfect tire package for tracks like Indianapolis and they should be applauded for their effort.
But next on the agenda should be the Sprint Cup aero-package and the intent to return passing to the “Racing Capitol of the World.”