Brickyard 400 turns into another snoozefest
About 60 laps into 20th annual Brickyard 400 — that’s 60 laps without a single on-track pass for the lead — I asked my Twitter followers, “What would you do to make the Brickyard 400 a more interesting race?”
|Once the Brickyard 400 starts the cars string out and it becomes a snoozefest|
For all the talk of the venue’s wonderful and unique history, the race itself rarely fails to bore its dwindling fan base half to death. With very little banking in the corners, drivers can’t pass, and don’t, setting up something of an annual processional. Even with the new-age car in use and the lowest temperatures in the race’s history, Sunday’s Brickyard, won by Hoosier Ryan Newman, was largely a snooze-fest.
Now, I am not one to point out an obvious problem without offering suggestions on how to fix it, so here goes:
I would place two bickering six-year-olds in the back seat of every car, just to test the drivers’ patience and resolve. If you two don’t stop fighting, I’m turning this car around!
My twitter friends suggested adding more banking (not going to happen), going to a night race (maybe it’s more fun after several cocktails and a cooler track) and altering the schedule to make the Brickyard part of the Chase schedule (not likely).
Some had more intriguing concepts:
• Have them turn right.
• “Land mines – too extreme?’’ a writer offered.
• Driving in reverse.
• Something involving sharks.
• Figure 8’s.
• Jump ramps and water hazards.
• Let Pete Dye redesign the thing with lots of water, bunkers and railroad ties.
There were more kidney stones passed at IMS Sunday than there were on-track passes for the lead.
But I’m not an upper-case MotorSports Expert, so I asked Tony Stewart, owner of Newman’s race-winning team, if he thought anything could be done to bring some passing into the Brickyard 400.
He took mild umbrage at the question but gave a great, typically interesting answer.
“Look at `racing’ in the dictionary and tell me what `racing’ says,” Stewart said. “Look up `passing’ and tell me what `passing’ is. We’re racing here. This is racing. If you want to see passing, we can go out on 465 and pass all you want and if you can tell me that’s actually more exciting than what you see here.
“It doesn’t have to be two- and three-wide racing all day long to be good racing. Racing is about figuring out the package you’re allowed and making it better that what everybody else has. I’ve seen races here won by over a lap, seen 20-second leads here, and for some reason the last 10 years everybody is on this kick that you’ve got to be passing all the time. It’s racing, not passing. ... I don’t know where this big kick comes from. It baffles me.”
Just to test his theory, I drove 465 home to Fishers. Passed a bunch of cars. It was exciting until I saw a cop on the shoulder.
“I know in ’04, my first year here, it was pretty easy to pass, ’04 and ’05,” Kasey Kahne said. “Since then, it’s been difficult. It was after they did some work to the track. I know the tires have changed, the cars have changed. In ’04, ’05, you could run the outside and get runs down the straightaway. Right now a lot of the race, you’re equal. It’s hard to be behind a car and carry that speed off the corner running in their tracks.
“Right now we can’t move around enough. So how do you move around? If they can make the surface or the tire so we can move around, that’s probably going to be the only way you’re going to make that happen.”
Said Jimmie Johnson: “In general, on a flat race track, it’s just tough to pass. You need a second lane with some kind of banking. These corners, they aren’t really that long. You have four 90-degree turns. That puts a lot against this racetrack for side-by-side racing.”
He paused and smiled. “But we still love this place,” he said.
Nobody here is saying the Brickyard 400 should be dropped from the IMS calendar. Heavens, no. It still draws 70-80,000 people, still pumps money into the local economy, still makes people pay attention this time of year. NASCAR and IMS are still a good marriage.
But somebody much smarter than me, specifically somebody who know how to change his own oil, has to come up with some way to bring passing back into this race — even if Stewart might have a different take on the subject.
The novelty of the event has waned; the vanishing crowds offer a pretty troubling story.
IndyCar made technical adjustments to allow for more passing in its races; why can’t NASCAR find something that works for the Brickyard?
The winner was a good story, a great one, but the race itself was a snore. The difference? Newman was flawless while Johnson took a 17-second-long pit stop that bit him in the end.
But the race, sadly and honestly, was a bore. The event needs a shot in the arm. Desperately. Bob Kravitz: Indy Star