NASCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Wednesday that the beleaguered Xfinity Series race at the track would be run on the road course layout in 2020.
It’ll be the first NASCAR race on the road course, though the track has previously hosted sports car races on the layout. The IndyCar Series races on the road course two weeks before the Indianapolis 500 in May and the track has also hosted Formula 1 races on the layout.
“As we’ve seen in recent years, road course racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series provides some of the most thrilling action of the entire season and we are excited to bring it to an iconic venue like Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” NASCAR managing director of racing operations Ben Kennedy said in a statement. “[Track owner Roger Penske], [track president Doug Boles] and the entire IMS team have been tremendous partners in growing the Brickyard weekend and we’re looking forward to what promises to be a must-see event during July 4th weekend.”
The move is the first big one made at IMS since Penske’s purchase of the track. Penske closed on the purchase of the track earlier in 2020 after it was announced in November.
Xfinity Series has run at IMS since 2012
The move to the road course is the latest change in a host of them since NASCAR moved the Xfinity Series race from what’s now known as Lucas Oil Raceway to the 2.5-mile oval.
The Xfinity Series has perhaps the widest gulf between teams with financial resources and teams that don’t and that gulf is never more exposed than at IMS, a track that requires horsepower, handling and aerodynamic efficiency. And the teams that have the most money are also the ones that have the most of those three things.
And that gulf means the racing was, well, never really thrilling. NASCAR tried adding heat races in 2016 but Kyle Busch ended up leading 62 of the 63 laps at the track anyway in the main race. The heat races were gone after just a year and in 2017 NASCAR changed the rules to make it easier for cars to draft with each other in an effort to facilitate passing.
Now the Xfinity Series will make some right turns in addition to left turns in 2020. It’s a lot of changes in nine years when NASCAR could have easily stayed at Lucas Oil Raceway, a short track that always produced compelling racing. Xfinity Series races on road courses are fun. And this year’s race on a road course has a much higher probability of being entertaining than it would have if it was run on the oval. But it’s also hard not to think (again) that NASCAR should never have moved the Xfinity Series to IMS in the first place.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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