Nearly a decade after the NASCAR Xfinity Series traded one of its best races of the year for a much less exciting one at the big oval nearby, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the series will move to the IMS road course this year. The switch comes a couple of months after racing tycoon Roger Penske bought the track.
It sounds like a decent move, too, if not nearly as good as just going back to the smaller track the series used to run on.
NASCAR and IMS announced the move on Wednesday, saying the second-tier Xfinity Series’ July 4 race this season will be the first time stock cars have done a layout other than the 2.5-mile oval at IMS, while the top-tier Cup Series stays on the big track. IndyCar, for example, typically runs a road-course race at IMS before the big race on the oval, the Indianapolis 500.
The configuration of the course the Xfinity Series will run isn’t final, as NASCAR said in its announcement that driver Matt DiBenedetto will do a preliminary test of a road-course layout next Wednesday. That the test will “will help determine any layout modifications for July’s stock-car debut,” NASCAR said.
This is just one of many moves the Xfinity Series’ Indianapolis date has made in the past decade, as the series moved to IMS from the nearby Lucas Oil Raceway short track in 2012. With that, the Xfinity Indianapolis weekend went from one of the best of the season—seriously, just YouTube it—to enough of a dud that NASCAR had to toss in restrictor plates in 2017 to make it more exciting. It was, but nothing ever really competes with what the weekend used to be.
But the move to the road course seems to have been heavily influenced by the new owner of IMS, as Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass tweeted that Penske said “fans and media response” will determine what happens after this year:
Spoiler: Fans and media say to give Lucas Oil a call.