There’s no disputing the prestige of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s hallowed ground in the world of motorsports. But does that automatically make the Brickyard 400, ahem, the Crown Royal Presents the so-and-so 400 at the Brickyard, a marquee event in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing?
If so, NASCAR fans didn’t get the memo, or at least they’re not getting it anymore. For that matter, maybe NBC doesn’t get it, either. I’ve seen a lot of cracks regarding the attendance of Sunday’s race at Indy on social media regarding the dozen fans in attendance at the Brickyard. I think I also saw a crack about the 450 fans there. Yes, those are exaggerations. Still, I’m sure there were at least a few thousand fans in attendance. But for IMS and NASCAR, I think the paltry attendance was embarassing.
Then consider where Sunday’s race was on the TV dial. Yeah, I realize TV’s don’t have dials anymore, but just humor me, okay. Anyway, the race was on NBC Sports Network, not NBC. Has FOX ever relegated the Daytona 500 to FOX Sports 1 or, the horror, FOX Sports 2? Not to my recollection. NBC Sports, and maybe even NASCAR, have been seemingly rejoicing in the factoid that Sunday’s race had 4.7 million viewers, the most of any broadcast, ever, on NBC Sports Network. But again, that was NBC Sports Network, not NBC.
Indianpolis was a big deal to NASCAR when it was new. It was a big deal when NASCAR rolled into IMS back in 1994 for that first Brickyard 400. After all, previously, the place was reserved pretty much for the Indianapolis 500 only, and that’s the crown jewel event of motorsports, at least when you ask mainstream folks who don’t follow motorsports and folks who prefer open-wheel racing. I’m guessing when you ask a person who prefers stock car racing the crown jewel racing would probably, more often than not, be the Daytona 500.
I’m sure Tony Stewart considers the Brickyard 400 a marquee event. And can you blame him? He’s an Indiana native who grew up within an hour’s drive from IMS, and he has an open-wheel background that includes starts in the Indianapolis 500. Based on his biases, we’ll take him out of the equation.
NASCAR promotes the Brickyard like a marquee event. Fans, though, don’t seem forgiving of the fact that the track produces sub-par stock car racing, for the most part. And maybe they just can’t forget that tire debacle from several years ago. Boy, that got ugly.
Then, that would put the TV partner in the position of tie-breaker, wouldn’t it? NBC’s call to put the race on NBC Sports and not NBC seems like a “no” vote to me.
So is the Brickyard 400 a NASCAR marquee event in the same class as the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500? Again, I’m not trying to slight the significance of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the motorsports landscape in any way. Is it possible to consider a race at such a historic track a non-marquee event for a given racing series? If that’s possible, I’m thinking maybe the Brickyard 400 isn’t the NASCAR marquee event NASCAR makes it out to be.
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