Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trucks Heading to Eldora Next Year

NASCAR is heading back to the dirt.

Confirming talk that had been bouncing around for months, the NASCAR Camping World Truck series announced its 22-race schedule today, and the famed Eldora Speedway will be on the schedule, marking the first time since 1970 one of NASCAR's national series will race off the pavement.

(Don't worry, an IndyCar reference and rant will be coming soon.)

As expected, the announcement was extremely well-received. People are excited about the prospect of running on the dirt, and its possible that this race will have a record number of entries. Even Tony Kanaan posted on Twitter today that he was in if he can get a ride.

It's an incredible idea, and with the race going off the Wednesday (July 24) before the Brickyard 400, there should be a lot of interest and attention.

I have to admit, I'm jealous, because once again there is a great idea out there, and it wasn't IndyCar that came up with it.

Now, I'm not saying the IndyCars should race on dirt, and I am well aware that the fact that Tony Stewart owns Eldora was what made this happen. And, yes, the interest could be of the novelty variety and further down the road this just becomes another stop on the schedule.

Still, it's the kind of thinking that the people that run IndyCar can't seem to come up with. Lots has been written about "fixing" IndyCar, and it all comes down to one thing -- new ideas that get people talking and get people more involved and invested in the series.

This is the kind of stuff that IndyCar needs to develop, but yet they don't. I don't know if it is arrogance or bad business or a combination of things, but it seems like they think that fixing the series involves running the cars out there on race weekends and hoping people notice.

I think the doubleheader idea will help, as will several others coming down the pipe, but where is the seriously "out there" idea that gets people's blood pumping? I want to get excited about IndyCar, lots of people do, but they are doing their best to make it difficult.

IndyCar needs to come up with things that will break with "traditional" ideas, because those ideas aren't working. As I have said in this space before, I think a mid-week race like what the trucks will be doing is worth a try.

Going up against other sports is killing us, so getting away from that might help. My idea? Run the Wednesday after Major League Baseball's All-Star game in a major market like Chicago. Qualify at 6, race at 8.

I picked the date because the day after the all-star game is the slowest sports day of the year. Meaning, the race would be up against nothing but mid-summer reruns, and maybe they could even talk about putting the race on ABC or NBC.

If you hold the race in a place like Chicago, you have 10 million people within 50 miles of the track who might need some time to fill on a summer night. If done right, it could attract a crowd similar to what they get on a regular race weekend, so why not?

What would also be a big appeal would be that it would be Midwest racing at its best. You show up, qualify, and race. Maybe even run some heats or something else to make it interesting. I think one of the appeals of the trucks at Eldora is it is what racing is all about -- a midsummer night's show.

I know, I know. A lot of you are probably shaking your heads. This can't be done, for a variety of reasons, right? Maybe not, but to paraphrase Dr. Phil "how's this working for us"? How are empty seats working for us? How is getting drilled week after week in the ratings?

Because here is the deal. The trucks are racing on a Wednesday night in the middle of nowhere, and two things are true: 1) the race will draw more people than an IndyCar oval race and 2) it will be one of the highest, if not highest, television ratings of the year for the trucks.

I've always been a big believer in that if things aren't going your way, you just try harder. "Fixing" IndyCar isn't about rolling out the same ideas and everyone crossing their fingers, it's about real investment, real ideas and people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make things better.

Going back to my post last October, I called IndyCar a "mid-major". Let's be frank here, NASCAR is Notre Dame (Go Irish!) and IndyCar is Northern Illinois. We have to try harder to be noticed, that is our lot in life right now.

Doing whatever it takes isn't desperate, and neither is conceding that how things are going right now aren't working as well as we'd like them. It's adapting to the current situation and developing a plan that makes things better several years down the road.

Right now I'm watching the show "Nashville" (starring Connie Britton, my celebrity crush) and she told a record producer "sometimes you have to blow up the box". Blow it up, IndyCar...adapt or die. It's that simple. Can we be the one to think of an original idea someday?

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