NASCAR and IndyCar collide for racing extravaganza at Indy

The once-frosty schism between the two biggest racing series in the United States has finally thawed and the result is a blockbuster event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — even without fans.

Posted: Jul 2, 2020 5:45 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The once-frosty schism between the two biggest racing series in the United States has finally thawed and the result is a blockbuster event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — even without fans.

NASCAR’s elite Cup Series will share a venue with IndyCar on the same weekend for the first time, a doubleheader conveniently forced by the frantic rescheduling required by by the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, it is an important step in putting forth a united front for the sake of motorsports.

“We’re all racers. We want racing to be successful,” said Kevin Harvick, the current NASCAR points leader and a winner at the Brickyard last year. “I know it’s kind of had that stigma for a number of years there’s the IndyCar guys and there’s the NASCAR guys ... racers are racers. Everybody wants to see a good race and be part of a cool event.”

The fracture between the two leagues dates to at least 1954 when NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. was allegedly told by IMS security he’d been ordered to leave the speedway. France was already working on his own big race track, Daytona International Speedway, and he vowed it would give Indianapolis a run for its money.

The battle was on and neither side had any desire to build a working relationship. IndyCar, called CART in its heyday, dwarfed the Southern-based stock car series. But the open wheel racing split the mid 1990s in which Tony George created his own series gave NASCAR an opening to capitalize as CART and the Indy Racing League fractured its base. NASCAR exploded in popularity and blew past its bitter rival as the place to race.

As years passed and NASCAR became an annual staple at Indinapolis, the relationship between the two series has improved. Jay Frye, who spent decades working in NASCAR, is now president of IndyCar. Steve Phelps, just the fifth president in NASCAR history, has never held a longstanding vendetta against the series.

Most important, though, is that motorsports titan Roger Penske now owns IndyCar and the speedway and has the juice to broker such a weekend. When the coronavirus pandemic blew holes in both series’ schedules, Penske plopped the IndyCar road course race originally scheduled for May on the shared weekend with NASCAR.

IndyCar will open the spectacle on Saturday with its second event of the season, then NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity Series will make its debut later that day on the same road course. The Cup Series races Sunday on the 2.5-mile oval. COVID-19 restrictions mean IndyCar and NASCAR teams and drivers will not mingle, use different entry points at the speedway and work from different garages.

The inability to open the gates to spectators is the one downside to what is an otherwise monumental moment for both series.

“To me, that’s the unfortunate part, we don’t get to have fans in here,” Penske said. “But I went to Jim France and Steve Phelps and said, ‘Look, the Brickyard has not been able to be what you have hoped, and now that we run the series and the speedway, we can make the decisions and we can get this done and it will be good for everyone.’”

This new pairing could ultimately smooth the road ahead for an entire industry battling for attendance, television ratings and sponsorship. NBC Sports is IndyCar’s broadcast partner and begins its portion of the NASCAR season this weekend. Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production, has tried to move away from head-to-head scheduling that forced viewers to choose which race to watch.

“We think it’s a really important crossover to have people watch racing ... to get people to sample different series, and you shouldn’t just be a NASCAR fan, you should be a racing fan,” Flood said. “I think this is a great celebration of motorsports. The interest in motorsports is high. We just need people to watch each other’s forms of racing and grow the overall pool of racing fans.

“And that’s why this is so valuable, and that’s why we’re so lucky Roger stepped in here.”

There are no drivers scheduled to compete in both series, but NBC Sports analyst Townsend Bell will call the IndyCar race and then fly to Daytona to race in the IMSA sports car event. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson plans to drive five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon’s car in a test on the road course next week.

Both IndyCar and the Cup Series will work from the garages once used by Formula One, and the NASCAR group can’t even enter the facility until IndyCar has cleared out. It means drivers can’t socialize the way initially imagined on a weekend such as this, and they’ll have to watch the other series’ on television.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the race. I wish I could have. It’s the situation we’re in,” said Simon Pagenaud, winner of both the road course race and the Indianapolis 500 last year. He indicated IndyCar will be exiting the speedway grounds before the Xfinity Series goes green.

“At the end of the day, it’s a historical moment, I think not just for American racing but for worldwide racing. I look forward to the weekend and seeing the reaction afterward.”

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 82°
Robinson
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 81°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
Rockville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 75°
Casey
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 81°
Brazil
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 82°
Marshall
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 82°
Sunny and Warm
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 189705

Reported Deaths: 7791
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1091504912
Lake12376444
DuPage11926519
Kane9509302
Will8932344
St. Clair3845159
Winnebago3746128
McHenry3060114
Madison241074
Kankakee171368
Rock Island165634
Champaign161519
Peoria148835
Unassigned1342197
Kendall131923
Sangamon115133
DeKalb89830
Boone75423
Jackson68519
LaSalle66621
McLean61115
Macon55023
Adams4865
Tazewell4488
Randolph4417
Coles43320
Ogle4005
Clinton37817
Williamson3646
Whiteside33516
Stephenson3256
Union30923
Grundy2995
Monroe29913
Knox2852
Iroquois2529
Henry2241
Morgan2226
Vermilion2222
Cass21911
Jefferson21819
Warren1870
Bureau1702
Lee1621
Montgomery1617
Macoupin1543
Marion1530
Franklin1470
Perry1421
McDonough13715
Effingham1291
Christian1284
Saline1262
Woodford1253
Jo Daviess1211
Douglas1062
Livingston1032
Pulaski910
Logan900
Jersey851
Clark761
Mercer733
Moultrie690
Shelby681
Johnson660
White640
Fayette603
Washington600
Bond593
Jasper557
Wayne551
Piatt540
Menard530
Cumberland512
Ford511
Carroll484
Gallatin482
Hancock461
Mason450
Lawrence440
Alexander360
Massac360
Wabash340
Greene330
De Witt320
Fulton320
Crawford290
Edgar280
Hamilton260
Marshall220
Clay180
Hardin180
Pike180
Edwards170
Schuyler170
Richland150
Brown130
Scott130
Putnam110
Henderson100
Calhoun90
Pope80
Stark70
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202