IndyStar Motorsports Insider Jim Ayello details the news that the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race will move to July 4 weekend.
Jenna Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS – The Brickyard 400 overhaul continues.
Less than two years after announcing the once iconic stock car race would bask in the cooler temperatures of September, NASCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that they are yo-yoing the race back beneath the summer sun – this time to Fourth of July weekend, beginning July 5, 2020.
As part of the calendar overhaul NASCAR officials hope will help rejuvenate the slumping motor sports titan, Daytona will vacate its spot on the holiday weekend and shift to the regular-season finale. That hole on the calendar will be filled by Indianapolis’ Brickyard 400, which will occupy its third different date on the NASCAR slate in four years.
For IMS, the move to a holiday weekend will add some welcome prestige to a race that has lost its luster since the inaugural event in 1994. Despite valiant efforts in recent years – including condensing and enhancing the on-track schedule, big-name concerts, amped up marketing and implementation of a dirt track race – IMS and NASCAR have been unable to stem the tide of plummeting attendance figures. A race that once attracted hundreds of thousands of fans to IMS now routinely brings in around 30,000.
The series and speedway are hoping this latest change will help restore some of the sheen that has worn of the Brickyard. However, there’s no hiding the fact that the yet another calendar shift costs the series’ fans date continuity.
It also flies in the face of what series and track officials have preached since its now short-lived move to September – that one of the race’s biggest problems and their fans’ top complaint was the sweltering July heat. In Indianapolis, according to AccuWeather, the average temperature over the July 4th weekend is about 85 degrees with temperatures in the 90s fairly common. In the early September weekend the race just vacated, the average temperature is closer to 80 degrees.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles doesn’t deny that the high temperatures will likely be an issue once again, but given the prestige of hosting a race on Fourth of July weekend, it was a sacrifice the speedway and NASCAR were willing to make.
“Once NASCAR approached us with this (date), we started vetting it internally and figuring out how it could work for us,” Boles told IndyStar. “Along with the Indianapolis 500 (on Memorial Day weekend), we like the idea of another American weekend in the summer. And the ability to celebrate what the IMS brand is. It’s the red, white and blue Midwestern, American brand.
Thank you! You’re almost signed up for
Keep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.
“So you will see a significant amount of red, white and blue and a significant amount of carryover from the Indy 500 and how we celebrate the men and women who have served this country.”
Though the idea of piggy-backing the 500 and tying the Brickyard in as another all-American weekend appeals to Boles, he’s wary of the fact that local fans will be race weary.
He knows there might be a little motor sports fatigue in and around Indianapolis but assures he and his team will be prepared to combat it. In fact he thinks that perhaps his team can use the close proximity of the dates to their advantage, tacking Brickyard inquires onto the end of Indy 500 ticket renewal phone calls.
One NASCAR superstar says he doesn’t the heat is going to be an issue. Kurt Busch, a 30-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and 18-time Brickyard 400 starter said it heat’s always a part of the July 4 weekend, and people party anyway.
“The heat isn’t something that people will focus on,” Busch said. “I think it’s more the atmosphere it draws in. That type of weekend, people are like, ‘Let’s go celebrate. This is July 4th. This is America’s birthday. Being at Daytona, it’s been 900 degrees down there, so it doesn’t really matter. Everyone knows it’s a fun weekend, and it’s going to be hot no matter where you are. … I just see it as Indianapolis having another big holiday weekend.”
One sure boost for IMS with the new date is that the 400 will no longer go head-to-head with the Indianapolis Colts on NFL’s kickoff weekend as it did last year – though rain pushed that race to Monday – and will again this year.
Boles also confirmed the return of the Flordia Georgia Line Festival as well as the largely popular Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Championship, which will once again lead into the Brickyard weekend. The dirt track event honors Bryan Clauson, an Indiana native who was killed during a race in 2016.
Boles believes the Independence Day weekend will afford more fans from around country — especially the Midwest — an opportunity to come to Indianapolis for the weekend. The race’s previous dates, in late July and early September, often made it difficult for fans to travel.
That won’t be as big a challenge on a major holiday weekend.
“With a regular spike in travel to Indy over the Fourth of July holiday, hosting this nationally-televised race will create a monumental weekend for the city,” Chris Gahl, senior vice president with Visit Indy, said in a statement. “From a tourism standpoint, marrying July 4th and an event at the iconic track will dramatically boost visitor spending and amplify the national media buzz coming out of Indy.”
Follow IndyStar Motor Sports Insider Jim Ayello on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @jimayello.
2020 NASCAR SCHEDULE
Sunday, Feb. 9: The Clash
Thursday, Feb. 13: Duels at Daytona
Sunday, Feb. 16: Daytona 500
Sunday, Feb. 23: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 1: Auto Club Speedway
Sunday, March 8: ISM Raceway
Sunday, March 15: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 22: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Sunday, March 29: Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, April 5: Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, April 19: Richmond Raceway
Sunday, April 26: Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, May 3: Dover International Speedway
Saturday, May 9: Martinsville Speedway
Saturday, May 16: All-Star Race at Charlotte
Sunday, May 24: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, May 31: Kansas Speedway
Sunday, June 7: Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, June 14: Sonoma Raceway
Sunday, June 21: Chicagoland Speedway
Saturday, June 27: Pocono Raceway
Sunday, June 28: Pocono Raceway
Sunday, July 5: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Saturday, July 11: Kentucky Speedway
Sunday, July 19: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Sunday, Aug. 9: Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, Aug. 16: Watkins Glen International
Sunday, Aug. 23: Dover International Speedway
Saturday, Aug. 29: Daytona International Speedway
Sunday, Sept. 6: Darlington Raceway
Saturday, Sept. 12: Richmond Raceway
Saturday, Sept. 19: Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, Sept. 27: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 4: Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, Oct. 11: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 18: Kansas Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 25: Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, Nov. 1: Martinsville Speedway
Sunday, Nov. 8: ISM Raceway