Indianapolis: Oval or road course

Indianapolis oval road course
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INDIANAPOLIS — Sitting at the podium in the DEX Imaging Media Center at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stephen Conley of The Podium Finish asked AJ Allmendinger what winning at The Brickyard meant to him.

“No matter what you race here,” he said, “if you’re able to win at this race track, it’s something that’ll last in your memories forever.”

He later added that a win here is a win, whether it’s the oval or the road course.

That sentiment, however, isn’t universal in the NASCAR garage.

To oval or to road course? That is the question

INDIANAPOLIS – JULY29: (L to R) Leigh Diffey, NBC Sports, Doug Boles, track president of IMS, Roger Penske, John Doonan, president of IMSA and Sebastian Bourdais, IMSA competitor, pose in front of the IMSA Battle on the Bricks logo in the DEX Imaging Media Center, after Friday’s announcement of IMSA’s return to The Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on July 29, 2022, in Indianapolis. Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Track president, Doug Boles, announced, Friday, that for the foreseeable future, the NASCAR Cup Series is staying on the road course.

“The racing’s been fantastic, and I think we’ll see that, again, this weekend,” he said. “Our fans have really enjoyed it. Our ticket sales are really strong, this weekend. So it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Be that as it may, not all drivers feel that way.

Some, like Joey Logano, think it makes no difference.

“It’s both pretty exciting and it’s both Indy right that’s the bottom line is you’re racing at Indy and you want to win here really bad and kiss the bricks,” he said.

Logano added that the winner on the road course does what the winner on the oval does.

“Last I checked either way you kissed the brick,” he said. “So I’m in for that either way.”

INDIANAPOLIS – JULY 30: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet, (C) Matt Kaulig, owner of Kaulig Racing (R) and Chris Rice, President of Kaulig Racing (L) celebrate by kissing the yard of bricks after winning the the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 30, 2022, in Indianapolis. Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images

Which Allmendinger and his team did, Saturday, after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Pennzoil 150.

Some, like Cole Custer and Michael McDowell, were mixed on oval or road course.

“You know, I think I’d like to go back to the oval,” Custer said. “I mean, I think it’s, it’s really cool to get to run the oval. So, I mean, it’s Indy I mean, everybody wants to go and win on that racetrack. It’s cool going to the road course also, but being able to win on the oval is a big deal.”

McDowell came up through the Road to Indy program. So he’s biased towards the oval, but also prefers the road course, because “it’s an advantage for us.”

“I think that this car would race well on the oval,” he said. “I think it would be a better race than we’ve seen in years past, but if they asked me, which they haven’t, I would vote for the road course, because I like the road courses, obviously.”

Kevin Harvick unambiguously made it known.

“I think the road course is embarrassing for us to run on,” he said. “We’re the biggest series in America, at the most popular track in America. So not running on the oval is embarrassing for our series.”

NASCAR and Indianapolis made the change from the oval to the road course in 2021, after years of declining attendance and the quality of the racing on the oval.

Denny Hamlin, however, said that even though the racing wasn’t great, “that’s just part of it” and that Indianapolis is “still the historic facility that we need to be racing on.”

It’s probably no secret that we consider the Brickyard 400, no matter how the racing was, it was a major for us,” he said. “It was kind of a showcase of the team’s horsepower, aerodynamics, drag, all that stuff. It was all a combination.”


Now keep in mind that this was by no means a representative sample. All I gathered from the 12 drivers I spoke to is that the thoughts of drivers are across the board.

Either way, it’s staying on the road course for the time being.

TOP IMAGE: James Gilbert/Getty Images