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OPINION: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is finally getting the respect it deserves



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Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay leads the pack of cars into turn one Friday at the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix Race 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Sept. 30, the IMS announced a doubleheader event scheduled for Aug. 15, 2021, featuring an IndyCar race on the road course — their second of the season — and the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course. Photo Courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The NTT IndyCar Series ran two of its final three races of the season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The two races of the IndyCar Harvest GP were run at the IMS’s road course On Oct. 2 and 3, a tremendous race course that is finally getting the respect it deserves after years of being overlooked.

The IMS is the most iconic venue in all of motorsport, and from 1919 through 1993, the Indianapolis 500 was the only race held at the track. In 1994, the NASCAR Cup Series made its first appearance at the IMS with the inagural Brickyard 400 — a 160-lap, 400-mile race. From 2000 through 2007, Formula One held the United States Grand Prix at the then-brand-new IMS road course, which opened in 2000, concurrently with the first F1 race. 

Since 2007, the road course had been used sparingly, only getting to host MotoGP and Grand Am races until IndyCar started racing there in 2014.

But now, the days of the IMS road course being forgotten are a thing of the past.

On Sept. 30, the IMS announced a doubleheader event scheduled for Aug. 15, 2021, featuring an IndyCar race on the road course — their second of the season — and the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course. The Brickyard 400 ran for 27 years on the 2.5-mile oval before the switch.

The doubleheader will not only be a great event for both series, but also for highlighting the IMS’s underappreciated road course.

The IMS road course is a combination of oval racing and road racing. It featuring about a mile of the IMS oval, including the iconic bricks at the start and finish line, as well as a completely unique circuit through the infield, with 14 turns, counter-clockwise around the track. The mix of wide turns and straightaways of the oval with sharp left and right turns from the road course makes for the best of both worlds in racing.

The combination of a superb grand prix circuit with all of the history and tradition of the IMS ovals makes the road course one of the distinctive tracks in motorsport.

The move to the road course from the oval makes sense for NASCAR, a series whose fans have spent years clamoring for more races at road circuits to mix up the flow of racing at ovals every week. In 2020, NASCAR raced at just three road courses.

In 2021, NASCAR will double that amount with six races at road courses. 

Besides the reformatted race in Indianapolis, the new schedule features races at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The only NASCAR Cup Series road races in 2020 were at Watkins Glen International, Sonoma Raceway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

For IndyCar, it’s another opportunity to race at the series’ home course, with the IMS hosting three races in 2021 after being the site of four races in 2020.

The more opportunities to race at Indianapolis, the merrier. There is nothing like watching cars fly down the yard of bricks any time of year, on any type of course. It’s known as “The Racing Capital of the World” for a reason.

While the Indianapolis 500 will always be hailed as the most legendary event in motorsport — and deservedly so — the road course at Indianapolis finally getting the love it deserves after years of neglect is great to see. The hallowed venue is truly versatile, featuring the best oval in racing, as well as a top-flight road course.

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