Indianapolis to add dirt track race to NASCAR weekend

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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.

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NFL schedule reveals conflicts in some markets with NASCAR races

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The NFL released its schedule for every team Thursday night, revealing conflicts with a few NASCAR Cup races — but not as many as it could have been.

The first conflict comes Sept. 9 when Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts the Cup regular-season finale at 2 p.m. ET. The Indianapolis Colts play their home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. ET.

“In a perfect world, we’d rather not be head-to-head at home,” Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, told The Indianapolis Star. “But we knew we’d be head-to-head regardless, whether they were here or on the road. … We just had our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be the first year of the new date for the race.” 

Other places where NASCAR and NFL compete nearby:

# Oct. 7 – NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, who have a strong following in that region, are home to the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of the NFC championship game that sent the Eagles to the Super Bowl. The race is at 2 p.m. ET. The game is scheduled for 4:25 p.m.

# Oct. 21 – NASCAR races at Kansas Speedway at 2 p.m. ET, and the Kansas City Chiefs are home to the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. ET.

NASCAR avoided conflicts a few other weekends.

The Charlotte Roval race is Sept. 30 and the Carolina Panthers have a bye that weekend.

The Texas race is Nov. 4 and the Dallas Cowboys play Nov. 5 in a Monday night game.

The Phoenix race is Nov. 11 and the Arizona Cardinals are on the road.

The season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is Nov. 18. The Miami Dolphins have a bye that weekend.

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Goodyear tire test at Michigan rescheduled due to weather

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The postponed Food City 500 and a wet and cold forecast has forced Goodyear to reschedule this week’s tire test at Michigan International Speedway.

Originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the test will now occur next week from April 24-25.

The move means that a scheduled tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for those days will be rescheduled to an undetermined date.

The Michigan test takes priority with the first NASCAR race weekend at the 2-mile speedway scheduled for June 8-10. NASCAR won’t visit IMS until Sept. 7-9.

“Hopefully, this will give us much more representative conditions of what to expect for race time in June,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, in a press release. “Since our Indy tire test was planned for this time, we’ll have to move that test to sometime in June or July.”

Teams and drivers scheduled to test at Michigan are Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.), Hendrick Motorsports (Alex Bowman), Team Penske (Brad Keselowski), Richard Childress Racing (Austin Dillon) and Stewart-Haas Racing (Aric Almirola).

Indianapolis test teams include Chip Ganassi Racing (Jamie McMurray), Joe Gibbs Racing (Daniel Suarez), Roush Fenway Racing (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) and Wood Brothers Racing (Paul Menard).

Martinsville Cup schedule to mirror those used elsewhere this season

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NASCAR announced Tuesday that “enhanced” two-day weekend schedules would return this year and be used for 12 of the 36 Cup Series races.

The first is this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Qualifying for the STP 500 will be held Saturday after the Camping World Truck Series race. Qualifying was held on Sunday for last October’s playoff race.

The schedules feature two days of Cup action to go with three total days of on-track activity (Camping World Truck Series teams practice Friday at Martinsville, for example). The weekends also will have a rotating schedule of Cup drivers participating in interactive opportunities for fans.

Enhanced schedules are set for both Martinsville races and the following race weekends:

Richmond I and II,  Kansas (May), Chicagoland, Kentucky, Pocono (July), Watkins Glen, Bristol (August), Indianapolis and Talladega (October).

The concept of such race weekends for Cup was implemented in the second half of last year at Martinsville, Indianapolis, Pocono and Watkins Glen.

Also, the Kansas race in May, the September Richmond race, the Kentucky race in July, and the Bristol race in August had Cup cars on track two days those weekends.

Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart elected to Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame

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The two NASCAR drivers arguably most associated with Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been elected to the track’s newly rechristened Hall of Fame.

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who combined to win the Brickyard 400 seven times, will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on May 24.

The announcement came Tuesday on “Founders Day,” the 109th anniversary of the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed.

They are the first to be enshrined under the Hall’s new framework, which includes the Brickyard 400 and United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis for the first time.

Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, and Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, were selected from a ballot of 14 nominees by a panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians.

“We are thrilled that the first class of inductees with our new name and election criteria honor two drivers who mean so much to fans in Central Indiana and around the world” said Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation in a press release.

Both Gordon and Stewart, who made their final Cup starts at IMS in 2016, have called Indiana home.

Gordon grew up and went to High School in Pittsboro, Indiana, after moving from California. Stewart is a native of Columbus, Indiana.

Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and went on to win the race in 1998, 2001, 2004 and in 2014.

Stewart won the race in 2005 and 2007.

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