MADISON, Illinois – The positive reviews for last weekend’s races at Charlotte Motor Speedway marked another triumph for the next-gen car at a moderate track. That begs the question of whether the Cup Series car could help it return to the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This season marks the second year that Cup cars have competed on the Indy road circuit, having raced on the Oval from 1994 through 2020. Even before moving to the street circuit A few drivers have been open about their desire to stay on the oval.
Because of the narrow groove in the corners, it has always been difficult for Cup cars to drive the track side by side. Attendance has dwindled over the years leading to the move to the street course which includes part of the oval.
With the next generation car, this season’s races at Auto Club Speedway (2 mile track) and Las Vegas and Charlotte (1.5 mile track) received rave reviews.
But the car didn’t work well at all tracks. Racing at the All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track, was not viewed positively. Reigning cup winner Kyle Larson said Friday that Texas “isn’t very racy at all.”
But could Indianapolis be different?
“Indy is just a tough track,” Larson said at World Wide Technology Raceway on Friday. “You can even watch the IndyCar race this year – it wasn’t that exciting and these cars do really big runs. So I still think it wasn’t going to be a very good race for us. And it looks like with these cars and the way the air drains out the back it could have the potential to be even worse than normal just because it’s a flat track.
“As a driver, I would love to win there on the oval. But the street circuit is the more exciting racing sport for me.”
Larson is not alone in his opinion.
“Honestly, I think Indy would be worse in those cars.” Ryan Blaney said. “With the previous car, you’d be praying about six inches or a foot with a little lean that (the car in front) would miss the ground. If you could get your headlight out (in clean air) you’re in decent shape.
“Now there is no slant in them. They’d have to down half a car and that’s not going to happen in Indy. I honestly think it would be worse in this car. I love racing Big Indy just for nostalgic reasons (but) I think it would be a worse race than what we had.
Christopher Bell found that the races on the intermediate multi-lane courses were good. That’s not as likely in Indianapolis.
“Any of these tracks where you can move around and pick other lanes, we’ve had great racing,” Bell said. “We couldn’t move in Texas. We had to follow each other and it wasn’t a great race.
“If we went to Indy and ran the oval, it would be a lot like Texas – if not worse.”
Former cup winner Kurt Busch sees opportunities at Indy – but some changes would need to be made.
“For me, the quickest answer is (having) looked at the Indy 500 a few years ago and raced in it, there are opportunities for downforce that teams in other forms of motorsport have,” said Busch.
“At NASCAR, we’re basically locked into this very small box of customizations. Let teams have more downforce that they can take out up front or put in front, back or rear.
“That would create a window for guys who have this package and guys who have this package on the same style track. That could open things up to who has short run speed versus long run speed one way or the other.”
“It could be the greatest race in the world,” said Harvick. “What’s the real ingredient that made Charlotte so much better than Texas? I do not know. I don’t think anyone knows. You just have to do it. I think that’s the only way you’d find out.
“It’s a kind of perplexity trying to figure out exactly what the ingredients are that make a good race or a bad race and which tracks are good and which are bad. I wish someone could tell me because I bet a million dollars last week that Charlotte would be awful. Then we suddenly run into a part of the circuit that we haven’t driven in five or six years.”
Even though it wouldn’t happen in Indianapolis, Harvick said the series belongs in the oval.
“I hate going into the brickyard and backing down the straight and doing the street course,” Harvick said. “I think it’s terrible for our sport and to some extent almost demeaning that you’re taking the best racing series in the country to one of the greatest circuits in the world, but racing on the road. ”
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Can the next generation car help bring the cup back to the Indianapolis oval? originally appeared on NBCSports.com