By Lee Montgomery firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWTON, Iowa - Within a few minutes of posting a story about the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule, fans spoke up about a possible move of O'Reilly Raceway Park's race across town to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Indianapolis Star reported Friday that IMS officials are considering the move in an attempt to bolster attendance for the Brickyard. As anyone with eyes saw last weekend, the Brickyard 400 was an embarrassing sea of empty seats, even though it was still one of the largest crowds of the year.
Now, I don't know how serious this talk is, but I hope the deal isn't done yet. If the Nationwide Series goes to IMS, it would be one of the worst decisions all parties involved could make.
For starters, let's talk about the allure of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which owns the trademark "Greatest Racecourse in the World." When you talk about racing, you think about Indy. Drivers around the world grow up wanting to race there, and even though the Indy 500 has lost some of its luster in recent years, there is no other place like Indianapolis.
So why would IMS want to host the No. 2 series there? Nothing at all against the Nationwide Series, but the series doesn't belong at Indy. Let the Brickyard have Sprint Cup.
Second, the series absolutely belongs at O'Reilly Raceway Park. It belongs at short tracks like ORP. The Nationwide Series doesn't need to be at more superspeedways, it needs to be at more short tracks. The race at ORP is always one of the best of the season, and the place is always packed. Where else can you say that about a Nationwide race?
Several years ago, NASCAR decided to start racing more Cup/Nationwide combo events at the same track on the same weekend. Later, it curtailed testing. Both of those combined to see Cup teams invade the Nationwide Series in drastic numbers. The result is what you're seeing now: Cup drivers winning most of the races and dominated the championship battle. And a lot of fans snore.
One way to fix that would be to go to more standalone events like ORP. What would you rather see, a Nationwide Series race at, say, Dover on a Saturday, or a race at O'Reilly Raceway Park? I think I know the answer.
Heck, ORP deserves a second race at the 0.686-mile track, if you ask me.
Third, the Nationwide race at ORP has become part of the series' tradition. It was on the schedule the first year of the series, in 1982, and has held events ever since. For the longest time, the track was the farthest west of any in the series. And the race has always been the Saturday night before the Brickyard 400 since NASCAR went to IMS.
So why mess with tradition? Why change one of the most popular races in the series? Why take a chance that a Nationwide race at IMS would be a major-league flop?
It ain't broke. Don't "fix" it.