Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NASCAR, IndyCar all agree: host ‘events’, not just races

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INDIANAPOLIS — On Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was announced that the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return to the iconic venue next September as the showpiece event for a full weekend of action dubbed the “IMSA Battle of the Races.” bricks”.

For the first time since 2014, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will battle it out on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course in a two-hour, 40-minute race.

The event has been described as a three-day festival showcasing the pinnacle of sports car racing, with unparalleled fan access to the garage throughout the weekend so that racing fans in the infield of the ‘IMS can connect with their favorite sports cars, drivers and team.

And most importantly, fans will be able to camp in the IMS infield, access not available on any other race weekend at the famed facility.

While in the elevator at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center on the way to the press conference, several people from the IndyCar paddock were discussing how last weekend’s double-header in the ‘Iowa was an event, not just a race.

It’s a growing trend in motorsport as various series and sanctioning bodies continue to deliver unique and engaging race weekends that encompass more than just on-track racing product.

Last weekend in rural Iowa, the IndyCar Series held a double-header race at the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway, a track that has been essentially left for dead during the pandemic. Hy-Vee, the growing supermarket chain based in West Des Moines, Iowa, was the title sponsor of race weekend and, along with Penske Entertainment, staged an event unparalleled in track history since its opening in 2006.

In addition to two races, the weekend featured four concerts with performances by country and pop music superstars Tim McGraw, Florida-Georgia Line, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton.

Those present enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Additionally, a plethora of food trucks participated in a Food Truck Challenge where fans determined the winners.

Many industry players felt that the Iowa twinbill was a lesson for other race promoters in how to produce a first-class event.

Speaking of producing first-class racing events, NASCAR announced earlier this month that the Cup Series will race the streets of Chicago next summer in the first-ever event held on a street course in what will be the 75 of the series.th anniversary season.

There are still a plethora of details to finalize and a lot of work to do before the cars reach the 12-turn, 2.2-mile course that will showcase Chicago’s iconic skyline with Columbus Drive, Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, Buckingham Fountain and Grant Park just before July 4 next year.

But assuming NASCAR and the city of Chicago can deliver, it could very well be one of the most iconic events on the calendar – even if local news reports in Chicago on Thursday and Friday began to cast doubt on the event by reason for mounting objection from environmentalists.

It wasn’t an unexpected move, as the city wants to close Columbus Drive for two weeks for the installation, and likely won’t be able to reopen all streets or do a full cleanup in one day. , given that the Cup race is due to take place on July 2 and the July 4 holiday is only two days after – and also closed Lake Shore Drive, which is one of the main thoroughfares downtown during at least a week, as well.

If it rains on July 2, pushing the race back to 3rd — and possibly even 4th — it could be disastrous for the city and NASCAR.

Still, Ben Kennedy, senior vice president of strategy and innovation for NASCAR, said of all the series’ schedule changes over the past two years, this was the boldest, calling it a most anticipated event of the season and one of the major sporting events in our country in 2023.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I think the excitement is now going to go away, and people are really going to be looking forward to July 2023, when the cars hit the streets here,” the mayor said. from Chicago, Lori Lightfoot. when the race was announced.

Let’s not forget that Chicago is no stranger to holding big events regularly downtown, especially around Grant Park. This includes this weekend’s Lollapalooza, an annual event that draws more than 400,000 attendees over the four-day music festival.

“We know how to do this,” Lightfoot said of any concerns. “We will work hand-in-hand with NASCAR to make sure the experience is safe, but also incredibly enjoyable for the fans. I look forward to showcasing our fantastic city on the world stage. a love letter to the city of Chicago.

Meanwhile, motorsport sanctioning bodies continue to write love letters to fans, creating unique and engaging weekends that aren’t just races, but events.

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