NASCAR boldly predicting better racing, more passing at Brickyard 400

June 5, 2013
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NASCAR officials are in Indianapolis this week doing a media sweep and making some bold claims about this year’s Brickyard 400.

NASCAR predicts its Gen-6 race car, which debuted this year, will dramatically increase fan interest and attendance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Brickyard 400.

That would be welcome news for Speedway executives, who watched attendance slump from 138,000 in 2011 to 125,000 in 2012. It's been quite a free fall since 2005 when, according to NASCAR, 280,000 watched the race.

There have long been grumblings about IMS, with its relative lack of banking, not being an exciting venue for stock cars. But the racing, many fans have said, became noticeably less appealing with the 2007 introduction of NASCAR's fifth-generation car, the Car of Tomorrow.

NASCAR parked the Car of Tomorrow after last year in favor of the Gen-6, which has been two years in the making and whose outlines hew closer to actual showroom cars.

NASCAR fans in Indy might still be skeptical given the lack of passing they’ve seen at the Brickyard 400 in recent years.

Those days are over, said Trent Bailey, NASCAR’s competition communication manager.

“I think we’ve proven, and our drivers have confirmed, that this new car is racier,” Bailey said.

For an indication of what the action on the IMS track will look like on July 28, NASCAR officials recommend that fans tune in to this weekend's race in Pocono.

“The [Gen-6] car has more grip and that means more passing, even on flatter tracks like Indianapolis and Pocono,” Bailey told IBJ Tuesday.

There are several key aesthetic and technical reasons why this new car will have fans juiced about the Brickyard 400, Bailey said.

First is its look. NASCAR fans wanted some of the stock aspects returned to stock car racing, Bailey said.

“If you put it side by side with the car sold on the showroom floor, the silhouette is near identical,” he said. “People want to see the drivers race cars that look like the ones they buy.

“We listened to our fans and our manufacturers,” Bailey added. “They want the cars to be differentiated and to be able to recognize the different brands in the series.”

But NASCAR isn’t just a beauty contest. There are key reasons why this new car will perform better on the track—even at IMS.

The Gen-6 car is 150 pounds lighter than the Car of Tomorrow due to adding a carbon fiber hood and deck lid—NASCAR-speak for trunk.

“That gives it a better power-to-weight ratio,” Bailey said.

In addition, the car is 60 pounds heavier on the left side, which helps it turn better on ovals like IMS where a driver turns only left. That’s 10 pounds heavier on the left than the Car of Tomorrow. While the change might seem small, Bailey insists that, together with other design changes, the Gen-6 will have a big impact on the quality of racing at the Brickyard 400.

NASCAR also added a steeper angle, or camber, to the rear axle, which helps the Gen-6 handle better. And Bailey pointed out that Goodyear has done extensive tire testing with the new car at various tracks, including Indianapolis.

Indianapolis race fans haven't forgotten the 2008 Brickyard 400, when cars had to pit every 10 to 12 laps because tires were shredding.

The aero package of the new car also has some important differences. The biggest is a larger rear spoiler. That increases down-force, which helps the car stick to the track better and theoretically should help the cars run faster at Indianapolis.

Roof-mounted cameras were even removed because they gave cars in the lead 80 pounds of extra down-force, giving them an advantage on curves.

So what does all this mean?

“Ideally, closer, faster racing and more passing,” Bailey said. “Already this year, we’ve gotten lots of positive feedback on the new car from the drivers. In the simplest terms, they say it feels ‘real racey.’”

Earlier this year, NASCAR did an East Coast media swing, getting the word out about the new car. NASCAR is trying to do everything it can to reverse attendance and television ratings declines that have gripped the series in recent years.

NASCAR knows Indianapolis is an important market. In addition to hosting one of its biggest races all year, Indy is usually No. 2 in TV ratings for NASCAR races. Charlotte, N.C., is No. 1. Series reps are spending two days here talking to media outlets.

Just how the changes will affect attendance this year is difficult to say. NASCAR officials certainly are burning rubber trying to increase interest.

“Ever since the season opener in Daytona this year, we’ve had an uptick in interest everywhere we’ve been,” said Matt Ciesluk, NASCAR's integrated marketing communications director. “We expect the same in Indianapolis.”

  • NA$CAR Gimmicks
    Better for NA$CAR to promote the fake Danica-Stenhouse script than try to sell the notion that somehow the Sickyard 400 is going to be a good race. It never has been. And it never will be. People have moved off of NA$CAR. It is over France. You are NEVER going to be the next best thing to the NFL and all that contrived BS. People are returning to "NA$CAR is a hillbilly sport" mentality only now it is worse. At least, originally, it was real racing.
  • How to fix them
    Here's what needs to be done to save the Indy 500 and Brickyard. They need to get fan friendly. And high tech. 1) Completely replace all bleacher seats with seats with backs. And, replace all the existing seats with comfortable seats wide enough and lengthly enough to accomodate wider bodies and small coolers. areas in the stands need to be constructed at logistical locations so fans can store their coolers without walking hundreds of steps to get a drink or food. this will require building more stands. There's plenty of room. 2) Provide "state fair" like "train like" shuttles to continuously circle inside the infield and outside the track to give people lifts. No 50+ fan wants to park in the Coke lot and walk to the second turn. and there needs to be hundreds of these trains so nobody is waiting. 3) Large screen TV screens need to be everywhere. so fans can see every aspect corner and straght away regardless of where they sit or stand. 4) Wireless service needs to be provided and race streaming to allow mobile smart phones and tablets to view the race if you purchase a ticket. 5) If it's a sell out, then open it up for local TV broadcasts. Thereby building more fan support. The track needs to step up and make this thing fan-friendly again. The existing method of people getting to the track, getting to their seats, and enduring the race, is just too old-fashioned. It's 1950ish. It's time for a new generation of really progressive thinking for the track. Do all the above, and the drivers and cars will do fine.
  • Good ideas
    Larry has good ideas. I would also submit that reducing capacity to about 150,000 seats is long overdue. I would also submit replacing the F1 garages with seats similar to what existed there years ago so sightlines for folks sitting on the front stretch are nor reduced as they are now.

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  1. I still don't understand how the FBI had any right whatsoever to investigate this elderly collector. Before the Antiquities Act it was completely legal to buy, trade or collect Native American artifacts. I used to see arrow heads, axes, bowls, corn grinders at antique shops and flea markets for sale and I bought them myself. But that was in the late 60's and early 70's. And I now know that people used to steal items from sites and sell them. I understand that is illegal. But we used to find arrow heads and even a corn grinder in our back yard when I was a child. And I still have those items today in my small collection.

  2. I lived in California and they had many of the things noted in the proposed suggestions from the "Blue Ribbon Panel". California is near financial collapse now. Let's not turn the great state of Indiana into a third world dump like California.

  3. The temporary closure of BR Avenue will get a lot of attention. But, one thing reported by the IndyStar really stands out to me, and is extraordinarily depressing: “Police also have agreed to crack down on noise violations, traffic violations and public intoxication.” In other words, the police have generously agreed to do their jobs (temporarily, at least), instead of just standing around waiting for someone to call 911. When is someone in this department going to get off their fat arse (looking at you, Chief), get their minds out of 1975-era policing and into 2014, and have his department engage in pro-active work instead of sitting around waiting for someone to be shot? Why in the hell does it take 7 people getting shot in one night in one of the city’s biggest tourist destinations, to convince the police (reluctantly, it would appear) that they actually need to do their f’n jobs? When is the Chief going to realize that there’s a huge, direct, proven correlation between enforcing the law (yes, all laws, especially those affecting quality of life) and preventing larger crimes from occurring? Is it racial BS? Is that what this extraordinary reluctance is all about? Is the department and the city terrified that if they do their jobs, they might offend someone? Whom, exactly? Will the victims of violence, murder, assault, rape, robbery, and theft be offended? Will the citizens who have to tolerate their deteriorating quality of life be offended? Will the businesses who see their customers flee be offended? Or, is it simple ignorance (maybe the Chief hasn’t heard about NYC’s success in fighting crime - it’s only the biggest g*&#am city in the country, after all)? Either way, Chief, if you don’t want to do your job, then step down. Let someone who actually wants the job take it.

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  5. I was a fan of WIBC in the morning, Steve was the only WIBC host that I listened too, he gave the news with so much flare that I enjoyed listening to him on my way to work. Katz is no Steve. Sadly, I will not be listening to WIBC anymore.