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From the Marbles

Nationwide move to the Brickyard seems less than a sure thing

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Ah, there NASCAR goes again: doing exactly the opposite of what most fans seem to want.

The sport announced Wednesday that two of its feeder series' most popular events — both the Nationwide Series' and Camping World Truck Series' events at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) — will be no longer. Instead, NASCAR is using those events — winners of various NASCAR awards in the past for little things like "race of the decade" — to make one big Band-Aid for a track that ought to never, ever need one.

Yes, the iconic, tradition-rich, oh-my-this-is-racing-Mecca Indianapolis Motor Speedway will receive a to-be-named Nationwide Series race in 2012 that coincides with the Sprint Cup Series' Brickyard 400 — a move worth roughly eight miles geographically and an unknown number of yawns.

It's no secret that the Brickyard has struggled in recent years, most likely due to a NASCAR-created problem in 2008 that left the new Cars of Tomorrow unable to keep their Goodyear tires intact for more than 10 laps. But aside from that, the fast yet downforce-important 2.5-miles of Indianapolis have created racing that, at times, is disinteresting to the average fan. In frank, it's racing in an extremely competitive era that becomes mostly single-file for long, long stretches.

Undoubtedly, some find Indianapolis in late summer to still be a fun event — as I do, a native-Hoosier with a penchant for digging too deep into race strategy. But IMS isn't a place that relies on die-hard fans to stay in business. It particularly needs events chock-full of drama, excitement and more to fill its expansive 250,000+ capacity with folks who just go to the race year-in and year-out because it's The Thing to Do. {ysp:more}

Instead, the Cup races there have seemed to get progressively less enchanting for that fan and the decided lack of sincere remorse, apology and retribution for the 2008 tire issues has taken its toll on a crosstown tradition that began nearly 30 years ago.

They started racing the then-Busch Series at LOR (again, formerly IRP) during the series' first season in 1982. A leap of faith to make NASCAR racing work in the midwest, the event prospered and in 1995 added a companion Truck Series event.

Ever since, both races have been must-see for plenty of NASCAR fans as drivers raced 200 laps around the .686-mile oval — a track that seemed to pioneer variable banking, as both the line around the infield apron and the line grazing the outside wall seemed equally fast. Tempers flared, sheet metal bent and fans roared for races that were nearly always a throwback to NASCAR's short track roots.

Most importantly, the crowds always turned out.

Now, just as places like South Boston, Valdosta, Myrtle Beach and more have, LOR seems destined to fade from the NASCAR short-track memory in hopes that adding a second-tier series to a first-rate track will spur newfound interest. It's an experiment that I don't have a lot of hope for, unless NASCAR figures out a way to add more racing grooves to the 100-year-old IMS.

Moreso, I'm just sad to know the annual hustle from "the big track" over to Clermont's LOR — a dash that, if you did it right, would involve out-of-the-way turns, corn fields, disregarding an unsuspecting gate guard and a prime, free parking spot along the drag strip — won't be part of my post-Brickyard plans after this year.

It was a trip more than worth it after a long, hot day at IMS because I knew that when the lights came on, the weekend's best racing would begin. You've got to wonder if anyone in NASCAR thinks about that anymore.

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