The NASCAR Nationwide Series is set to run for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year as a support race for the Brickyard 400.
On Wednesday, track officials announced NASCAR's second-tier series will race on the 2.5-mile track on Saturday, July 28 of 2012, moving from Lucas Oil Raceway, where they had competed since 1982.
Besides the Nationwide Series event, the Rolex Grand-Am Series will also be part of the schedule with a planned three-hour race on Friday, July 27, which will take place in the road course used by Formula 1 between 2000 and 2007. The production car-based Grand-Am Continental Series will also race on the same date.
Back in 2009 Grand-Am tested both the Formula 1 and MotoGP layout configurations, eventually deciding that the former was more suitable for their endurance events.
"We're going to triple our hours of track activity here," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and CEO Jeff Belskus. "That will be good for the fans. It will be good for the sponsors. We're billing it as a Super Weekend in motorsports. "To come here and see all the different types of competition, whether it be on the road course or on the oval, it will be great for our fans, it will be good for the sponsors. It's going to be a fun weekend."
The Brickyard 400, rated as one of NASCAR's crown jewels beside the Daytona 500, has seen a marked decrease in attendance in recent years with a massive drop coming in 2009 following Goodyear's tire debacle in the previous year. At the 2008 Brickyard 400, the race had to be run under caution after every 10 to 12 laps of green due to tires failing with excessive wear.
Up until this year, the race has been run as a stand-alone event, the only one in the calendar without a NASCAR support event at the same venue.
The Camping World Truck and the Nationwide Series have raced on the same weekend at Indianapolis in the nearby Lucas Oil Raceway track, formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park, a 0.68-mile oval with a 30,000 crowd capacity, that looks likely to be axed from NASCAR national series schedules.
"Seventeen years ago when we ran our first race here, we've benefited from that impact ever since," said NASCAR president Mike Helton.
"So now to be able to add our second stock car series, the Nationwide Series, and North America's greatest sports car series, the Grand-Am Rolex and Continental cars, I think it speaks to the commitment that NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have with each other to better the future of motorsports and to create a truly a world-class event here in July in the middle of our season, which gives us a great moment to look forward to."
Officials are hopeful that the new weekend format will boost attendance figures back up to numbers that compared well to 200,000-plus crowds for the Indianapolis 500.