NASCAR: Will the Indy road course save the Brickyard 400?

The NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is set to take place on the road course in 2021. Will it restore the luster to the Brickyard 400?

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule was released on Wednesday, and one of the changes on the schedule was the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Brickyard 400 is now scheduled to take place on the 13-turn, 2.439-mile (3.925-kilometer) road course instead of the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) oval at the track. Can the move restore the luster to the race in the 28th year of Cup Series action in Speedway, Indiana?

To begin, the Cup Series racing on the oval has never escaped the 2008 debacle. That year, Goodyear tires wore out too quickly, causing blowouts. NASCAR rectified the crisis by throwing competition cautions approximately every 10 laps.

Just 12 years later, that race remains one of the most notable memories in NASCAR history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But NASCAR has never pleased its fans by racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They further angered fans by moving the Xfinity Series race from nearby Lucas Oil Raceway to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2012 season. In my opinion, NASCAR racing at the Brickyard has been attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole. It has not worked.

This year, the Cup Series race there took place on July 4th weekend, breaking the long-standing tradition of racing at Daytona International Speedway that weekend. To compound the fans’ displeasure, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no fans were allowed to attend the race.

The race itself this year saw 12 fail to finish. Leader Denny Hamlin slammed hard into the wall late in the race due to a blown tire, a common problem throughout the race.

Twelve years after the infamous tired debacle, tire wear remained a problem for the Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Meanwhile, the Xfinity Series raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course this year for the first time instead of the oval. Only three of the 38 drivers who competed in the race failed to finish, and five caution flag periods took place in that race.

Comparatively, the last time the Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval had no more than five caution flag periods was in 2014.

So can the Cup Series change from the oval to the road course be successful? Yes, as long as there are not more tire issues.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NASCAR are committed to bettering the on-track product.

The 2021 NASCAR race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the NTT IndyCar Series, which is scheduled to race on the road course on Saturday, August 14.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said the following in a press release:

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants involved. The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.”

In addition to switching which Indianapolis Motor Speedway course the Cup Series races on, NASCAR moved that 2021 race date to Sunday, August 15. There will be just two more races in the Cup Series regular season following this race, so NASCAR added the storyline of the push to make the playoffs to this race.

The 2021 Cup Series schedule has six road courses on it, so those race tracks will constitute exactly one-sixth of the 36-race schedule.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is the penultimate road course on the calendar, and the track is scheduled to host a race just one week after a race at fellow road course Watkins Glen International. So the increased number of road course races will also provide storylines.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is also the final road course race on the regular season schedule, another talking point for media, fans, etc.

Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway both lost those Cup Series races, so fans who traveled to those two race tracks may now attend the Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. As Frontstretch Editor-In-Chief Tom Bowles wrote, NASCAR is banking on it.

Yes, moving the race from the oval to the road course is a gamble. But if it is successful, NASCAR will have capitalized on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, regaining some of the Brickyard 400 luster.

Next: Every NASCAR track from the 2010s no longer on the schedule

What do you think of NASCAR moving the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the oval to the road course? Will the 2021 race be exciting, or will problems continue to plague the Cup Series there?