INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The scene at recent NASCAR races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has included lots of empty seats. But a new date and a new track owner are hoping to bring enthusiasm back to the Brickyard.
Drivers will be racing on a new track, fans will have the opportunity to capitalize on an entirely new experience, and viewers will have tons of new entertainment at this years Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard.
Typically, NASCAR drivers racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would duke it out on the oval track. But for the first time the NASCAR Xfinity Series will run the Saturday race on the road course.
“On the road course you actually travel backwards compared to what we do on the oval. So going clockwise versus counter-clockwise will be a very interesting visual change for us,” said NASCAR driver Justin Allgaier.
This means change for the Xfinity cars themselves, as well as the driving style, and drivers like Allgaier are going to have to study up to prepare.
“Physically it is going to be more demanding than it would on the oval. Mentally it will be more demanding than it will on the oval,” said Allgaier.
Next week, NASCAR Cup driver Matt DiBenedetto will come out and start testing the track with engineers and work on different configurations. Track officials say he will not be eligible to run in the race.
There will be about a 90-minute break between events on Saturday where officials say they will be able to convert the track back to the oval.
“We can take that configuration, make small tweaks to it to make it a great place for the NASCAR Xfinity cars. There is an evolution here, it is continuous,” said IMS owner Roger Penske.
“Over the last 10 years or so as the attendance has been declining, we were in July we were in August, we were in September, now we are back to July 4th. NASCAR has been a great partner in thinking how can we fix some of these things,” said IMS president Doug Boles.
Another big change, for the first time during this NASCAR weekend people will be able to camp out in turn three in the infield during race weekend.
“This is about the fan experience, having fun, having a good weekend. To me that is going to make the difference because without that it is just another race weekend,” said Penske.
One of the challenges facing IMS will be getting people to come back out to the track for another big race weekend just 42 days after the Indy 500. But they are hoping that with the new experience it will entice people to want to make a 4th of July tradition celebrating at the track.
Penske says he is open minded and committed when it comes to developing the NASCAR race weekend in hopes of one day making it as successful as the Indy 500.
“He has been open-minded in making changes but he has also allowed us to say look, what makes the customer experience better? Whatever makes the customer experience better, that is where we need to focus,” said Boles.
Nothing changes for the 400-mile race on the big oval. That will still take place on Sunday.
FGL Fest will be held at the track for the second year and Big Machine Records says the band will be dropping a new record this year. In the coming weeks they will announce who will joining them in July at the track.
With the race being held on 4th of July weekend Boles and Penske teased to a special focus on first responders and military members. They say there will be some kind of special event or events regarding those who serve throughout the weekend but said more announcements regarding that topic will be released in February.