By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Motorsports Christmas shouldn’t be taken away from the fans, who have a day to celebrate their favorite sport.
There’s an outlandish statement Ken Willis from The Daytona Beach News-Journal made about the Indianapolis 500 should be moved to Saturday and the Coca-Cola 600 staying on Sunday or even moved to Memorial Day.
It’s a joke and who can blame the people who feel this way. I understand the earlier days of the Indy 500 had the “Never on Sunday” rule, but we’re beyond past those days. Moving it to Saturday in this day age isn’t the way to go just to make the whole NASCAR buying International Speedway Corporation (ISC) ordeal appealing.
First off, Charlotte Motor Speedway, the venue of the Coca-Cola 600, is not an ISC track. That’s a Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) property and ultimately, have some control on that kind of decision. It’s just the audacity of this concept that I see benefiting NASCAR more than anything and knowing that Charlotte has nothing to do with ISC, is downright pathetic.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the idea of having NASCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series having doubleheaders. This could allow IndyCar to have a few more oval races and spark excitement like returning to Chicagoland Speedway, a circuit that’s had some of the greatest battles in the sport’s history. The options of having different tracks on the IndyCar Series calendar are open.
However, here’s the drift where Willis missed the boat, two different tracks isn’t a true doubleheader. Having two sanctioning bodies run on one circuit is, like Texas Motor Speedway next weekend when the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series run on Friday June 7 and the next night, IndyCar takes the stage.
That being said, never destroy the single greatest day in racing. Motorsports Christmas, as I like to call it, consists of Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix, IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. All three take place on a single day, which gives fans about 15 hours of action.
If they do so move it, which I highly doubt they will (and shouldn’t), the only benefits I slightly see is us journalists and maybe an increase chance for drivers doing “The Double.”
There’s some that may end up writing all three races and it can be tough, but there’s a thing called focusing on one entity, especially those who are at the circuit. Some can pull all three off, but it can hinder a writer’s performance if you put way too much on your plate. Trust me, it’s better focusing on the event the writer is at (ex. Indianapolis) instead of trying to be Superman and say write something about Monaco, Indy and Charlotte. The quality of writing will show.
My biggest concern is the budget many writers have varies and I don’t know if some of the smaller publications can afford to do both Indy and Charlotte. Pick one or the other. If a writer can do both, salute to you, but realistically, the pockets will be slim if it hasn’t already.
Now regarding “The Double,” it shall be noted that back in the 1970s, guys like the Allisons (Bobby and Donnie) and Cale Yarborough would run both the 500 and 600. However, it wasn’t on the same day as John Andretti was the first to pull that 1100-mile single day feat in 1994. Something that’s been done since by Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch.
However, if they take place on separate days again, it kills some of the challenge “The Double” has provided the past 25 years. Sure, it won’t be a logistical nightmare and could become more feasible for guys like Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, both heavily rumored drivers of possibly giving it a try someday, but I don’t feel the mystique will be as impacting switching the event dates.
For me, it’s more admirable when Gordon and Stewart did it because there’s a thing called months of preparation. Running the Indy 500 takes months, maybe a year of advanced preparation. That’s why Stewart hasn’t returned to Indy, and a key factor why Fernando Alonso didn’t run the 500 in 2018 and run a full-time IndyCar schedule this year. These things aren’t meant to be rushed.
For someone on the NASCAR side that wants to do it, this takes time, money and an owner willing to let their marketable driver race at different type of car. If the roles were reversed and guys like Will Power and Alexander Rossi wanted to tackle the 600, it has a challenge of its own.
Teams like Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske could add a special entry as they don’t already have a max set of four cars. It damn sure can’t be done at Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing because they already have four cars. This is one of my biggest gripes about today’s NASCAR, it’s time to abolish the four-car limit or have a huge exemption for the 600 and while at it, the Daytona 500.
Wouldn’t be something if some IndyCar drivers ran “The Great American” race? I’d say it is.
Willis’ comments of logistical concerns from a corporate standpoint have bigger risks than just meeting tight time gaps. It’s a collaborative effort on all parts and to me, sponsorships isn’t the number one problematic risk. That’s why you have relief drivers in case plans are out of their control were to happen like weather. It forced Gordon to give up his IndyCar seat to Jacques Lazier in 2004 due to a lengthy red flag for rain.
I’m sure companies and the teams themselves know what they’re dealing with. It takes tons of effort to really get a tremendous program going, which is what makes it exciting when a driver is actually permitted to give it a go like the previous four drivers have done since 1994.
Easier it may be for guys of either entity to compete if the 500 were to be moved on Saturday, but drivers, writers and fans alike find it ludicrous. You can’t just move a race date and expect a driver to run the 1100-mile grind overnight. That’s not how it works.
Do you really think the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would allow themselves to be foot stomped by NASCAR as well? Big fat no.
The 500-mile classic still has more marketability than the 600 wishes it could have and don’t get me started with ratings. It’s become an absolute beating on a dead horse subject.
A ratings bump (thanks to NBC Sports’ tremendous advertising) is encouraging, but give me a break if that’s the argument being made that should make Indy move a day earlier. No matter what, Indianapolis is the attraction of Motorsports Christmas. Always has, always will be.