Roger Penske has made one of his first major decisions for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it concerns the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Penske and IMS president Doug Boles announced on Wednesday that the Xfinity Series will compete on the road course this year as a support event to the Brickyard 400. The July 4 race will be sponsored by Pennzoil, and run at 1:30 p.m. ET.
“We want our fans to look at this and see if this is something they want so we can grow this in the future,” said Penske.
“This could put on some great racing. And guess what? The 500 was the 500 for how many decades, and once the decision was made to move NASCAR in, we felt that we wanted to take it to the next level. We’ve had some great racing here on the Brickyard weekend, but we think with the concerts, the road course on Saturday, and the oval on Sunday will make a big difference for the fans and certainly our TV partners.”
A course layout and other race specifics have not yet been determined.
Penske said the Xfinity Series would run the course “similar to what we do with the IndyCars” during May.
Ben Kennedy, NASCAR managing director of racing operations and international development, revealed that Matt DiBenedetto will run different course configurations next week. DiBenedetto is not eligible to compete in the Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis.
“We’ve been contemplating do we run the road course here at Indianapolis for quite a while now, and the collaboration with Roger… and the entire team here at IMS has been really an easy journey,” said Kennedy.
“Certainly, a very exciting announcement for us in NASCAR, an exciting announcement for Xfinity and the Xfinity Series. You think of that series and always such fantastic racing that they put on, especially you think of the road courses we go to from Road America to Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen. Some of the road course racing is our best racing for the Xfinity Series.
“Really excited to see what that weekend brings for the Brickyard, and everything Roger and the team are doing around the track and around that weekend, and really bringing a breath of fresh air to it will be great.”
On race weekend, there will be an approximate 90-minute break following the Xfinity Series race to convert the track for NASCAR Cup Series practice on the oval. The Cup Series will then qualify Sunday morning and contest the Brickyard 400 later that afternoon.
NASCAR moved the Indianapolis Xfinity Series from Lucas Oil Raceway to IMS in 2012.
“When the announcement was made that the Penske Corporation was going to purchase the Speedway, I immediately got a big smile on my face,” said 2018 Indianapolis winner Justin Allgaier.
“As a former employee of Mr. Penske and knowing the Penske organization, I knew that the Speedway couldn’t be in better hands. And I was curious because I’ve had enough conversations with Roger to know that the wheels are always spinning and he’s always trying to improve racing, improve not only his race team but the product that goes on the racetrack in general.”
“This opportunity for this weekend really is exciting to me and I feel like all the competitors, all the teams,” continued Allgaier.
“The switch to July 4th weekend, to switch a race course that I feel like fits our cars very well – as Ben kind of alluded to, they’re going to try some different configurations – but seeing what some of the options are, I believe in my mind there’s going to be some great passing zones [and] the ability to put on a great race.”
With the addition of Indianapolis, the Xfinity Series now has five road course races on its schedule.