|Drivers' opinions vary on move to Brickyard|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 23 July 2011 14:56|
Since 1994 the Cup series has had a summer race at the storied track, but starting next year the Nationwide Series will be joining the top division at the track.
Formerly known as the Busch Series, the Nationwide has had a race since its inception in 1982 at what is now known as Lucas Oil Raceway Park, a short drive from IMS. Earlier this month, however, it was decided that the second-tier series, along with the NASCAR-owned Grand Am series, will be moving to the big track in 2012.
That's left some drivers not knowing how to feel.
``It's a bittersweet deal because I think the racing's going to be great when we go there next week, but I'm very excited to be moving over to the big track next year also,'' said Elliott Sadler, who is running fulltime in Nationwide this year after several years in the Cup series.
``I understand why we're moving to the big track. To me, Lucas Raceway Park is one of the most exciting races to watch if you're going to watch a Nationwide race or a truck race. It's cool for the fans because they're really close to the racetrack, but I think it's a great opportunity to move over to the big track.''
Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski also drives several Nationwide races and he's confused about his emotions over the move.
``I'm certainly going to miss running at the small track,'' Keselowski said. ``I think it's the only track that I've never missed a race at (in my career). I just enjoyed going there, but there's something to be said for going to the Brickyard and what it means to the sport.''
One of the positives is the exposure that sponsors will get by being at the historic track. Also, drivers that haven't ever driven there will get a new experience.
``It's a big venue and all the history that goes with that racetrack, so we're growing as a sport,'' Sadler said. ``Anytime we can give our sponsors a big bang for their buck they're going to be happy about it.''
Ticket sales for this year's Brickyard 400 reportedly are slow, so many believe that NASCAR is trying to do all that it can to bring back fans.
Mike Helton, president of NASCAR, stressed at the announcement ceremony that the purpose is to make the entire weekend more appealing to fans.
``Everybody wants to grow,'' Helton said. ``We're no different than that. (This) is one of those milestones where you pulled a nationally iconic facility together with NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Grand-American Series to put together a weekend that is going to be special.''
NO REGRETS: Like most of the open wheel drivers that make the jump to NASCAR, Sam Hornish Jr has struggled since making the move full-time for the 2008 season.
Hornish was a three-time IndyCar Series champion and winner of the 2006 Indianapolis 500 when he made the jump from iconic car owner Roger Penske's open wheel team to his NASCAR Cup organization.
Hornish's best season was in 2009 when he scored two top-five finishes and was 28th in points. However, in 2010 he slid back and is now driving part-time in the Nationwide Series.
``It's real tough just for the fact that you don't get the chemistry of working together every weekend,'' said Hornish, who qualified eighth for his seventh start of the Nationwide season. ``I think the big thing is making sure that we look at our teammate (pole sitter Brad Keselowski) and try to figure out what they've done.''
Hornish doesn't regret making the move.
``I feel like I did what I wanted to do over there,'' he said. ``The big thing for me is that there are so many things that I wanted to do besides just running IndyCars. How do I be able to never try (NASCAR) out?''
For right now, Hornish doesn't see himself even trying to run just the Indy 500, but he doesn't want to rule it out either.
``I'm not going to say that I won't but there's not much reason to do it at this point,'' said Hornish. ``I might wake up some morning and have a different opinion about it. I really enjoyed my time in IndyCars, but that I feel like that part of my life is over right now. I haven't done what I wanted to do over here yet.''
COMING HOME: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Timothy Peters enjoys coming back to Nashville because it's like going home.
``Nashville is like a second home to me,'' said Peters, who finished third in Friday's truck race. ``That is where I moved when Bobby Hamilton called me to come drive his truck. Their shop (was) located in (Mt. Juliet, about 30 minutes from the track), so I wanted to be around the team.''
Hamilton died of cancer in January 2007.
PIT STOPS: Flagman Kevin Moss and Stewart Cooper, crew chief for Mikey Kile's No. 30 car from nearby Mt. Juliet, Tenn. . Coming into Saturday's race, Carl Edwards had completed all 2,700 laps in the races in which he's competed at Nashville. . This is defending Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski's second pole of the season. . Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has led the most laps of the Nationwide regulars entering Saturday with 207.