As the legendary announcer Paul Page says, “it’s race day in Indianapolis” again.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is back in NASCAR. While it technically never went anywhere, it was announced this week that the Brickyard 400 will return in 2024. It is a renewal of a NASCAR crown jewel that will be held on Indy’s oval once again after a brief three-year departure that took NASCAR to the road course instead.
For many passionate fans, it is hard to even celebrate the announcement given the historic shroud of controversy. The race itself has been rooted in contention since day one. While that is a discussion for another day, it pales in comparison to the polarizing decision to ax the Brickyard 400 in the first place.
As another iteration of gross indecisiveness of the sport, many fans screamed about how boring Indy oval races were. So NASCAR made a change to bring races to its road course — and many complained about how awful those races were, too. And thus, the demands were met per this announcement, which has basically proved nobody can make up their minds.
But hey, that’s NASCAR for you these days: extreme indecisiveness. Somebody fusses, nobody else knows what do. And thus comes a series of attempted changes, many retractions and subsequent firestorms that come thundering across the NASCAR landscape, which likely leaves half of the polarized group unhappy.
Don’t believe it? Well, you don’t have to look far to find another change and redaction. This one came on the same day as the Indianapolis retraction in the form of North Wilkesboro Speedway.
You likely know by now that NASCAR left Wilkesboro, fans grumbled and somehow, we got it back, albeit 27 years later. While that decision was popular and hardly controversial, the track has announced it will be repaving its circuit before its next race — which, in typical fashion, has divided fans yet again. We cannot even go one year of a great thing without a gigantic split in public opinion, but that is the box in which we have been put.
There have certainly been decisions that NASCAR has made and then changed back in which the sport has been more unified. That was the case in the decision to axe the nostalgic Darlington Raceway date off Labor Day weekend before returning it back to its rightful historic place on the calendar after a nearly two-decade absence.
Thus begs the question: Is NASCAR just that bad where it is an organization that simply cannot be decisive? Or is it that modern NASCAR really is decisive and it is just bad at making decisions? Or could it possibly be that raving fans have a low tolerance for a product that is less than top notch?
Many would probably scoff sarcastically at all of these statements and come up with an explanation of their own for the constantly shifting tide of reverting change. Certainly no other sporting leagues have consistently and frequently gone back to their old norms.
To add more fuel to fire, there are still plenty more things that seem like they’re coming. So if you are somehow not used to bumpy waters, you should be. Nobody can seem to be able to make up their mind about the fall race date at Charlotte Motor Speedway, for example. Rumors has swirled that a retraction could be coming to the 2018 decision to build a first-of-its-kind ROVAL inside the track. Those rumors say that a second oval date could replace the ROVAL that replaced the oval. Some like the oval. Some like the road course. Now there is no unifying decision because NASCAR made a bold decision in the first place.
There are also rumors about the controversial NASCAR charter system and its existence beyond the 2024 season. Some NASCAR executives have been reportedly considering revoking all charters and returning to the historical norm of teams being freestanding, independent enterprises with no regulatory body ensuring their participation in every race.
Nobody can figure out what to do with Texas Motor Speedway and its recent reconfiguration perpetuated by fan and NASCAR restlessness alike that has turned in some very poor reviews. Let’s add the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Colosseum. Then there is Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, dirt racing, street racing, the NASCAR departure from Road America, we could go on and on. It was not so long ago that NASCAR got really bold with its scheduling choices, but their boldness has seemingly left shards of controversy and divided fans in their wake.
From afar, the question is: Why would anybody love this? It is a farce. No one ever seems happy or even content. Major sponsors have left. Viewership is on a historic fall. NASCAR just simply does not seem to have its act together, right?
And even just for fun’s sake, drivers cannot even seem to make up their minds about staying in the sport. Aric Almirola was supposed to retire last year and yet, a year later, nobody has any idea what he is doing after 2023. Martin Truex Jr. was supposedly retired but now he is back next season. Finally, there is Boris Said, who is making yet another return to the sport in a week’s time after saying he was done with NASCAR as far back as 2016.
But to find some solace, let us just read between the lines here. It is relatively safe to say that nearly everyone involved in NASCAR (teams, the sanctioning body, drivers, fans and even sponsors) will attest that the sport has taken missteps. But we are at the point where ideas are being thought of, actions are being taken and NASCAR is still somewhat mainstream. These efforts and missteps and changes are not being done in vain. There is a purpose behind them, and it is a very real effort (even if it doesn’t work from time to time) to stop NASCAR’s historic downslide and keep everyone coming back. Yes, it draws controversy, but people still tune in to see said controversy.
So friends, welcome to NASCAR, the frustrating circus where simply nobody can make up their minds and just happens to be something we all love.
We put up with it because we are likely used to it.
About the author
Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.
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