Perfect Match

Has it really been eleven years since the sound of NASCAR engines first invaded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? It seems like yesterday when the initial excitement and anticipation of NASCAR coming to the world's most famous speedway was the talk of the racing world.

Back then there were two camps both vehement in their belief. Camp A were the supporters of Bill France, Jr. and Tony George's vision to bring the sky rocketing popularity of NASCAR racing to the Brickyard.

The idea to stage a NASCAR race smack dab in the middle of the Midwest at the historic speedway came long before the recent crop of new tracks sprouted up around the country and the Cup Series found itself in Chicago, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Texas and California. Taking NASCAR to Indianapolis may have been the most important step in the evolution of the sport to the mainstream status it enjoys today.

But over in Camp B were the opponents of the crazy notion. To this group the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was sacred ground and a place for open wheel racing only. How dare these southerners invade their private piece of motorsports nirvana with their lumbering fendered monstrosities.

History has shown that the marriage of NASCAR and Indianapolis has been one of the most successful ventures in sports. But while the Brickyard 400 (Sorry, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard) has become one of the biggest paydays in Nextel Cup racing with the largest crowd and strong television ratings, there are still plenty of Camp B members still voicing their outrage.

It is true that Indianapolis isn't the most ideal track for the heavy Nextel Cup machines to compete on. The flat four cornered circuit makes it difficult to promote much passing under the current rules set-up. Simply put, the track wasn't designed for this type of competition and the racing doesn't always live up to what NASCAR likes to sell.

However that's not to say there isn't any competition during the Brickyard 400. While we may not see side-by-side racing all afternoon or any type of record number of lead changes, the last ten events have provided there fair share of thrills and excitement.

Considering what NASCAR has done to what is considered its "showcase" track in Daytona, with the restrictor plate fiasco providing nothing more than an articifially exciting four-wide parade until disaster strikes, the racing at Indianapolis is certainly acceptable.

Throw in the large purse and the summer "Speedweek" atmosphere of the August gathering which includes the Busch Series and Craftsman Trucks at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park, and the Brickyard festivities rank right up there on the racing hitlist.

The addition of events in Chicago and Kansas may have eroded some of the Midwest crowd that would make the drive to Indianapolis for the yearly NASCAR fix. Now with events in Kansas and Illinois, some may feel its best to stay closer to home and support those two new tracks.

But a crowd of 300,000, which is still expected on Sunday, is nothing to sneeze at. A sellout? No. One of the largest single day sporting event crowds in the world? Absolutely.

It may have been scoffed at by some for a decade, but NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are a perfect match.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2005

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