By admin | July 24, 2009
By Richard Allen
When motorsports fans around the world think of the great venues in all of racing they think of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Indianapolis 500 began on this track in 1911, but racing had actually begun on the speedway even before that.
Some of the biggest names in the history of the sport have won at â€˜The Brickyardâ€™. Foyt, Mears, the Unsers, Rutherford, Andretti, and more recently, Earnhardt, Gordon and Stewart have been to the IMS victory lane.
Indianapolis is more than just a place to race, it is a motorsports temple.
Unfortunately, there is one problem. The racing, especially for stock cars, is not that great. For that matter, the racing on all tracks larger than one-mile has not been very good in NASCAR since the inception of the Car of Tomorrow.
IMS, in particular, is not suited for this type of racing. The track was built for the cars of the early 1900s rather than the cars of the early 2000s. Because of its rectangular shape with long front and back straights and 90 degree angle turns, the track is essentially one groove. And more, because of the high speed straights and the tight turns, aerodynamic down force is vital to making the cars turn. Thus, drivers tend to separate themselves in order to find places where their cars can run comfortably.
As a result of these factors, the Brickyard race typically turns into a 400 mile follow-the-leader affair with most of the passing being done on pit road, a very narrow and dangerous pit road at that.
And of course, last yearâ€™s race at IMS was a monumental disaster due to numerous tire failures. Hopefully, that problem has been rectified but the nature of the track itself and the poor racing conditions it creates will likely never be fixed.
The Indianapolis 500 has become the same type of race as this Brickyard 400. As is the case with the stock bodied cars, the technology has out grown the track. The cars in both races are simply going faster than the track designed for.
There is not a race car driver alive who would not want his name listed among the winners at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And this Sunday, someone will earn that distinction. However, it is unlikely that fans will walk away from the track or turn off their televisions and go tell others what a great, competitive race they saw.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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