REVEALED: Why the Brickyard 400 Is Slowly Losing Its Status as a NASCAR Crown Jewel Event

Published 02/07/2022, 9:30 AM EST
May 30, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; The Indy series during the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

In NASCAR, there are a few races that are considered the most important to the sport. These are the races at the Daytona International Speedway, the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Darlington Raceway, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis soon fell out of contention in terms of prestige.

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The biggest sign of the decline was in 2008 when NASCAR arguably experienced its worst race in history. This race witnessed the debut of the much-disliked ‘Car of Tomorrow’, a newly-paved surface, and ill-prepared tires. All of these ingredients were pretty much a recipe for disaster and it clearly showed.

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What was the reason for NASCAR failing at Indianapolis?

Apparently, this race registered some of the slowest speeds and the most caution periods. NASCAR clearly did not take a hint from the nightmare that was the 2005 F1 United States Grand Prix. Back in 2004, the track was repaved for the first time in nine years. At the time, the officials opted to use a new procedure to make the track extra smooth, while potentially causing more tire wear.

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It is truly a shame, considering that the track has a 112-year history. A large part of it is because of the Indianapolis 500, which is for IndyCar. NASCAR first visited the track in 1994 and many had high hopes of it eventually overtaking the Daytona 500 as the biggest race. Sadly, that will never come to pass, as the cars have switched to the road course layout.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 08: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, Erik Jones, driver of the #20 STANLEY Wish For Our Heros Toyota, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #19 AOI Toyota, pose for a photo with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy to start the playoffs following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 08, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Admittedly, this new surface did not affect the NASCAR cars too badly. Unfortunately, the 2008 season saw the ‘Car of Tomorrow’ become the official car of the series. All through the year, the car simply could not make the Goodyear tires last the distance. In the buildup to the race, every team and driver still had no idea what to expect from these tires.

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Although NASCAR promised two mandatory cautions, several cars did not last that long. It got to a point where the Competition Vice President and the NASCAR President were on damage control. When the torture wrapped up, statistics revealed that drivers spent nearly 33% of the race under caution. As a result, the Brickyard 400’s reputation was in tatters and has struggled to recover since.

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Dhruv George

13405 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Motorsports author for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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