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DATE News (chronologically)
08/11/11
track news
Brownsburg annexes Luca Oil Speedway
Is Brownsburg rivaling Speedway as the auto racing epicenter in central Indiana?

Maybe not yet, but it certainly is growing its racing enterprises faster than Speedway. Last month Brownsburg arguably made its biggest coup of all, and did it all while drawing very little attention.

I had heard rumblings that Brownsburg was angling to annex the racing complex formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park. But when I was reporting a story about life after NASCAR at the track in Clermont, I was surprised to discover that the annexation was all but a done deal.

The Brownsburg Town Council voted on July 21 to annex 2,200 acres, including the 267-acre racing venue. And Brownsburg officials said they’ll work with the track to develop the surrounding land, possibly into other racing-related ventures.

Lucas Oil Raceway will officially change its address to Brownsburg in late October, according to Dale Cheatham, Brownsburg town manager.

Brownsburg is home to about two dozen National Hot Rod Association drag racing teams and a handful of other race teams.

“We think there’s a lot we can do with our chamber of commerce and the other race teams to work collaboratively with the track,” Cheatham said.

By annexing the land, Brownsburg will get tax revenue from Lucas Oil Raceway, but NHRA officials think the benefits outweigh the costs.

“We think the annexation deal could really bring some energy to the track,” said Raceway General Manager Wes Collier. “It adds to Brownsburg’s reputation as a racing Mecca and obviously it could help us, too. We haven’t worked out all the details yet of how this will work.”

Mike Lewis, senior vice president of Don Schumacher Racing and the general manager of Lucas Oil Raceway from 1995-98, said the National Hot Rod Association teams in Brownsburg are excited about the annexation.

“There are better than two-thirds of the top NHRA teams based here in Brownsburg, and this just seems to make a lot of sense,” Lewis said. “I think there are going to be a lot of synergies, and I think you’ll see Brownsburg continue to be a magnet for teams and other companies involved in racing.”

Lewis pointed out that many of the companies that work on IndyCar Series cars also work on NHRA drag cars, and added that Brownsburg also is becoming more attractive for IndyCar-related firms.

Speaking of IndyCar, a couple of well-placed sources within NHRA racing who have close ties to Lucas Oil Raceway said there have been discussions about bringing an IndyCar race to Lucas Oil Raceway’s 0.686-mile oval. It’s not clear if that would be a Lights race or the big boys.

Collier said he hadn’t heard of any discussions.

“I’ll say this,” Collier said. “If it’s something the IndyCar Series thought they could make happen, it’s definitely something we’d be willing to look at.”

And while IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said the idea hasn’t come across his desk, he added that the idea interests him.

“I’m open to it, but I’d need to see all the facts,” Bernard said. “That’s something I’d need to sit down with my entire team to weigh it out.”

Since there are more IndyCar fans in central Indiana than anywhere else in the nation, “I definitely think it would be a popular event, and a very different kind of race than you’d see at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Collier added.

But the much faster speeds of an IndyCar could make it difficult. Even the Lights cars, which are a bit slower than the top-tier IndyCar Series cars, might be tough.

The track has hosted IndyCar tests. Scott Sharp circled the oval in 1997 to shake out his car and Ed Carpenter ran the circuit to see what was possible in an Indy Lights car in 2002.

“It has been looked at,” said Tony George Jr., who heads up the Indy Lights series, the top feeder circuit for the IndyCar Series.

George, the son of former IndyCar Series and IMS CEO Tony George, said the difficulty goes beyond the cars’ speed.

“Given the horsepower and configuration of the cars and the configuration of the track, it was deemed not to be a very good match,” George said.

George explained that the best racing line around Lucas Oil Raceway’s oval is along the outer wall, and passing on the low side for an IndyCar or Lights car would be difficult. IBJ.com

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