NASCAR: Does Indianapolis' 'Super Weekend' Make the Speedway Less Super?
2012 marked the first "Super Weekend" in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, as the track added Nationwide Series and Rolex Sports Car Series events prior to the Sprint Cup Series' prestigious Brickyard 400. But after a series of less-than-super races this past weekend, it may be time to admit that the saturation of IMS' schedule has removed the prestige from the hallowed grounds of the speedway.
NASCAR and Grand Am announced last year that they would share a three-day weekend at Indianapolis. Grand Am would bring the sports cars to the 2.54-mile road course for the first time, while NASCAR moved the Nationwide Series away from nearby Lucas Oil Raceway Park after 28 years of sellouts.
The move was made to resuscitate failing Brickyard 400 attendance, though comments from throughout the weekend suggested limited success to that end.
The racing wasn't much better, either.
Friday's Rolex Series race was marred by reckless driving from Juan Pablo Montoya, who was running a one-off event for Cup owner Chip Ganassi in his second Daytona Prototype. Montoya knocked Starworks Motorsport driver Ryan Dalziel off course, setting him back to 17th place.
The series elected not to punish Montoya for his driving.
Meanwhile, Ganassi drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas established an 11-point lead over Dalziel and co-driver Enzo Potolicchio.
Saturday's Nationwide event was also tainted by a controversial call by NASCAR, as Elliott Sadler had almost certain victory snatched from him by a black flag after beating leader Brad Keselowski to the start-finish line on the final restart.
Keselowski spun his tires, giving Sadler the jump, but NASCAR rules state that, no matter what, the leader must be the first to take the green flag. However, Kyle Busch had beaten pole-sitter Kasey Kahne to the green flag at the start of the race and was not penalized.
NASCAR then relayed the wrong explanation of the penalty to Sadler, claiming that he jumped the restart and could not simply give the spot back. Keselowski, who wouldn't earn points due to his Sprint Cup participation, would go on to win the race. Championship-leader Sadler was forced to settle for 15th, his lead whittled down to a single point over Austin Dillon.
In short, the new supporting events did little to build momentum for Sunday's feature. In fact, they probably did more harm than good.
The good news is that future Super Weekends have nowhere to go but up from here. Unfortunately, that's also the problem: The debut of the event was so disappointing in its on-track product that it's likely not worth it to salvage the prospect.
It's not likely that NASCAR, Grand Am or IMS will abandon the Super Weekend after only one subpar season. But given the negative publicity, absence of entertaining short-track Nationwide racing at LORP and years of fan disinterest in the Brickyard 400, it may be one of the biggest mistakes that IMS will ever make if the event continues.
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