The Captain has provided some important information about the future of NASCAR. Roger Penske has addressed whether the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval will ever return to any of the national series schedules.
Penske made the comments prior to the IndyCar Series/NASCAR crossover weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. According to Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic, he said that the Cup Series will return to the road course in 2023, marking the third consecutive season. NASCAR continues to evaluate whether to return to the oval in 2024.
There is another unique option that Penske mentioned during his media availability. The owner of Team Penske and Indianapolis Motor Speedway said that one possibility is having NASCAR alternate years. The Cup Series could run the oval one year and the road course the next.
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The Cup Series Moved to the Road Course in 2021
The Cup Series first took on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s oval during the 1994 season. Jeff Gordon won the inaugural NASCAR race at The Brickyard, his first of five trips to Victory Lane in 23 starts.
The series continued to race on the oval every season until 2020. There were numerous drivers that won at the track, including Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, and Tony Stewart among others. Kevin Harvick actually went back-to-back in the final two races on the oval to reach three wins at IMS in his career.
The 2021 season marked a major change. The Cup Series joined the Xfinity Series on the road course for the inaugural Verizon 200. AJ Allmendinger won the race that featured massive wrecks in Turn 5/6 and Chase Briscoe getting parked after the No. 14 went through the grass. Briscoe also knocked Denny Hamlin out of the lead and sent him spinning on the final run to the checkered flag.
The Conversation Continues Regarding Crown Jewel Races
Will the NASCAR Cup Series return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval? There is no clear answer, but the track’s future will have an impact on another important conversation.
When Denny Hamlin won the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR said that he had secured the last Crown Jewel race. He had three Daytona 500 wins, three Southern 500 wins, and the Coca-Cola 600 win. What he didn’t have was a Brickyard 400 win.
The Crown Jewels have traditionally been the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600, and the Brickyard 400. NASCAR even names all four races on its list of active drivers with Crown Jewel wins. Now, however, there are questions about the Brickyard 400. Can this race still be a Crown Jewel if the Cup Series drivers don’t have an opportunity to win it?
If the top series in NASCAR remains on the road course, it would make sense that the Brickyard 400’s status as an active Crown Jewel race would change. Though alternating races at the massive venue would provide drivers with the opportunity to battle for the historic win.