Douglas Boles

IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com

USAC Midget race will kickoff Brickyard 400 once more

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After a successful debut in 2018, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 USAC Midget race will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) in 2019.

The 39-lap race is held in honor of three-time USAC Midget and two-time USAC Sprint Car champion Bryan Clauson who lost his life in August 2016 following an accident at Belleville (KS) High-Banks Speedway.

Scheduled for Sept. 4-5 as the opening event of the Brickyard 400 weekend, the midget race will kick off five nights of racing.

Last year, Zeb Wise won the opening night’s Stoops Pursuit race with Brady Bacon taking the A-Main on night two.

Last year’s race featured 118 cars on the entry list. Representing NASCAR, Christopher Bell finished fifth in the feature. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was just outside the top 10 in 11th after winning his qualification race.

“The Driven2SaveLives BC39 … was a spectacular event for everyone involved, putting talented short track racers and teams from across America into a richly deserved spotlight,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a press release. “There were memories made for a lifetime both nights, and everyone at IMS is so happy to see this event return in 2019 as part of Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard weekend.

“We’re especially grateful that the BC39 raised so much awareness for the Driven2SaveLives campaign and honored the memory of Bryan Clauson, an extraordinary race driver who was an even better person.”

Clauson was a registered donor and following his accident, his organs helped save the life of five individuals.

“Right now, more than 115,000 men, women and children wait for a life-saving organ transplant,” said Kellie Hanner, Indiana Donor Network president and chief executive officer. “Each day, 22 patients die because the organ they needed did not become available in time. Our Driven2SaveLives campaign raises awareness around those who wait and honors donor heroes like Bryan Clauson who saved lives. All of us at Indiana Donor Network are proud to be a part of the BC39 again.”

Ticket reorders and new applications are being accepted through January 4, 2019 at IMS.com and through the IMS Ticket Office.

Indy President: Indianapolis and NASCAR are ‘about the oval’

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles confirmed to NBC Sports that discussions were had about shifting the Brickyard 400 to the road course before the decision was made to keep the NASCAR Cup Series on the 2.5-mile oval

The track’s NASCAR weekend shifts from late July to Sept. 9 next year. The track will host the final Cup race before the playoffs begin.

Boles said Wednesday that the road course was considered an option but rejected for multiple reasons.

“As fans know and as we know and as NASCAR knows, the Brickyard 400 over the last several years has struggled,” Boles told NBC Sports. “We believe to continue to make it viable and frankly to grow it, we had to look at everything.

“We actually had a conversation about the road course in February in Daytona. Mark (Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., INDYCAR and IMS parent company) and I met with the folks in NASCAR in New York City. We talked it through.

“Ultimately, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is about the oval and NASCAR is about the oval. What makes this race special for the drivers is they get to drive on a track that Ray Harroun ran on, Wilbur Shaw won on, and you can recall the names that meant something to this sport.

“We felt committed to making the oval work.”

It was the heat, Boles said, that was the primary factor for the move to the fall. Boles noted the customer feedback from annual surveys and said that more than the racing product on track, heat was an overriding complaint.

“We survey our fans after every year,” Boles said. “The one thing we hear more than anything, the biggest complaint about the Brickyard 400 is the heat in the middle of the summer and you can’t shade this place. You can’t add more shade. The heat is the number one factor. We would make a move to move it out of the heat.

“Now we’ve moved it to an event where they will crown their regular season champion and they will set their 16 drivers for the playoffs. For us, that is another talking point.

“This addresses the number one concern that our customer has. The second or third, depending on the year, is that the race is just a race and doesn’t have real meaning to the rest of the season, so now we’ve also addressed that concern as well.”

One concern that arises from a September date is the potential of going head-to-head with the Indianapolis Colts. The NFL traditionally releases its schedule in April, so NASCAR will know whether the Colts are in town on Sunday, Sept. 9 well in advance.

Boles and IMS are already working toward an amenable solution.

“We completely understand it’s NFL season, and we’re in a city where the Colts are,” he said. “So we have begun those conversations, even ahead of announcing this with the folks at the Colts, so we can do the best we can to limit the weekends we go head to head with the Colts in this market.”