INDIANAPOLIS — May is the month of the year around which the NTT IndyCar Series revolves. It begins with the IndyCar Grand Prix on the grand prix circuit of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then on Memorial Day Sunday, the cannon fires at 6:00 a.m. (which indicates the gates are open) and over 200,000 people pour into the facility to drink the day away, take in a concert in the Snake Pit and watch the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. Afterwards, the turnaround at Indianapolis begins for the next major event, the Brickyard 400; be it in September this year or on Independence Day weekend in 2020.
On March 26, 2019, NASCAR announced that as part of its major schedule realignment, the Brickyard 400 will take Daytona International Speedway’s spot on Independence Day weekend in 2020. This comes only two years after it was moved from late July to Richmond Raceway’s slot in mid-September.
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Aside from the lackluster quality of the racing, especially compared to the Indianapolis 500, one of the biggest reasons cited for the Brickyard 400’s well documented declining attendance was the extreme heat in summertime July.
“…one of the things, when we moved to September, we said there were two things that were really important,” track president J. Douglas Boles said. “One was getting out of the heat. The other one was we wanted a weekend that meant something, and so last year and this year were the last race leading into the Chase, or the playoffs, the last race of the regular season.”
Given this, one might wonder why it’s moving back to July.
At his press conference Friday at Indianapolis, Boles said that NASCAR approached them with several options, which included Independence Day weekend, as it looked to align its schedule in a manner that would “grow the sport of NASCAR racing,” and that the decision was a joint one between NASCAR and Indianapolis. He also noted that the track was “limited in the number of dates that worked for their schedule.”
“When we looked at the date options we had, July 4th has a lot of impact,” he said. “…it’s a weekend that means an awful lot from our country’s standpoint. You think about we kick summer off on an important American weekend, so if we can kick it off for IndyCar and have NASCAR on an important American weekend, that felt really good to us.”
While heat was an obvious issue, he believe that “a lot of other activities” can overcome that (what that entails, he didn’t mention).
The move to Independence Day weekend in 2020 brings with it a short turnaround between the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day Sunday and the Brickyard 400. There’s concern that the short turnaround might cannibalize the Indianapolis market. That’s not new for the track, however, as from 2004-2007, Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix ran in late September, three weeks after the Indy 500.
“In a lot of ways our staff is excited about it because you can just think about those two huge events all right together, so it’s a little bit longer run where when we’ve been late in July or even in September, we get through May and then there’s a little bit of lull and then you pick back up,” Boles said. “So, it comes with challenges and opportunities, and we’re really focused on the opportunity that it brings, and I think we’re going to find that the recall of July 4th for fans is going to be easier to remember when the Brickyard is.
“And the one positive that we haven’t talked about is we’re not going head-to-head with the NFL, we’re not going head-to-head with the Colts, and I think at the end of the day, we’re going to find that this weekend works out okay.”