Indianapolis Motor Speedway plans to build a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run a USAC race to kick off the NASCAR weekend, the track’s president confirmed in reports by Racer and The Indianapolis Star.
The move is being made to connect the NASCAR event, which has seen a steady decline in attendance in the last decade, with race fans.
“The short-track community in a lot of ways is the heart and soul of racing across America,” Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway told The Indianapolis Star. “USAC midget racing, especially in the Midwest, is really strong and competitive, and attracts people like Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Rico Abreu when they have time to come race.
“So for us, we thought, is there away we could connect with that short track guy or gal, who spends their weekend at the local track on Saturday? And we thought this was good way to experiment with connecting with that fan base.”
IMS constructed a 3/16-mile flat dirt track inside Turn 3 in 2016 as a gift to Tony Stewart to celebrate his final Cup start at that track that year. Sarah Fisher and Bryan Clauson, who died from injuries suffered in a crash at the Belleville Midget Nationals about a month later, joined Stewart in running midget cars on that track.
Stewart ran about 20 laps. Even then, he looked ahead to the possibility of a dirt race at the Brickyard.
“If we get to actually watch a race here at IMS on a dirt track, that is going to be pretty awesome,’’ Stewart said that day. “They haven’t been able to do that for the first 100 years, but they can do it for the next 100.’’
The dirt track that IMS plans to construct for the NASCAR weekend will have 60-foot wide straights and 8-degree banking in the corners, according to Racer. The track plans to build bleachers to hold 5,000 fans. IMS began bringing in dirt Tuesday.
The date has yet to be announced for the event but both reports stated it would be the Thursday or Friday before the Sept. 9 Cup race at the track.