NASCAR drivers embrace shared weekend at IMS with IndyCar

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NASCAR drivers embrace shared weekend at IMS with IndyCar

NASCAR

NASCAR drivers embrace shared weekend at IMS with IndyCar

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Kurt Busch described it as a motorsport fraternity hanging out in Indianapolis.

The Speedway is hosting two NASCAR series and the NTT IndyCar Series in a three-day weekend of road course racing. All three divisions are turning left and right, and drivers from each garage are mingling with their counterparts.

“It’s really neat to see everybody’s smiles,” said Busch, who saw familiar faces from when he ran the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport in 2014. “A lot of emotions today.”

Last year, only the Xfinity Series and IndyCar Series competed on the Indy road course and COVID-19 protocols didn’t allow for mixing between garages. Those two series then exited the facility before the Cup Series rolled in for their Sunday event on the oval.

Having two major forms of auto racing — NASCAR Cup and IndyCar — in the same place at the same time has been a conversation for a while, with the push getting bigger in recent years. This is the first time the NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar Series have shared a race weekend. Having three races this weekend with two from NASCAR and one IndyCar is even better.

Three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin likes what Indianapolis is doing and the opportunity it gives race fans to see two different series. Austin Dillon had the same thought, although he wishes it were on the oval.

“But it’s cool to have all three series here,” Dillon said. “It’s a great weekend of racing.”

Colton Herta of the IndyCar Series admitted he’d never seen a Cup Series car in person until Saturday. Former NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr. said he was looking forward to seeing his first IndyCar race this weekend.

It wasn’t unexpected to hear drivers admitting to experiencing the other series for the first time. Joey Logano arrived at Indianapolis early and took in IndyCar practice on Friday with his son Hudson. Even though the Team Penske shop in North Carolina houses both NASCAR and IndyCar teams, Logano was also new to the open-wheel environment.

“I have never seen IndyCar go around the racetrack besides Josef Newgarden at the (Charlotte) Roval,” Logano said. “I wanted to see that. They build our cars next to each other (at the shop in North Carolina) for the most part, and I have never really seen them go, which is a little embarrassing. I have never had the opportunity to either.

“I just wanted to go and watch a little bit and see what is going on. It is Roger’s [Penske] racetrack, too. So being around is cool, and seeing what he has done is neat.”

Another Penske driver, Brad Keselowski, thinks the weekend is more about the race fan than the drivers.

“It is something new and exciting, and we’re seeing a lot of different new ideas that are fun to work through and be a part of,” Keselowski said. “I think it’s good to break it up a little bit.”

Now that NASCAR Cup and IndyCar have come together, the discussion will be around doing more in the future. Kevin Harvick would like to see sharing a weekend with IndyCar rotate to different tracks. Harvick likes sharing but thinks they should go to all tracks — oval, road courses, Roval. Keselowski agreed with Harvick’s thought process but also appeared hesitant about having too much of a good thing.

“I think this could maybe be its own tradition,” Keselowski said. “It seems like whenever there is a good idea, everyone in the sport tries to copy it until they ruin it. No, just let one track have it. Let them enjoy it. Whether it was the road course at Charlotte or whatever it might be. We can’t let one person have a good idea; we all have to copy it.”

As much as Kurt Busch is enjoying the weekend, he knows it needs to be done correctly if it continues.

“It is special to have it once. Let’s see how it goes,” Busch said. “There is no right or wrong answer. To me, anytime you can have a roaming target such as like Texas could be next year’s companion, and then could we do Daytona road course as another one? Have it roam around.

“This week on Fox was something special with the ‘Field of Dreams’ baseball game, and a lot of people that hadn’t watched baseball were tuned in. So, I think you’ve got to create those cool moments for people to tune in and keep it fresh.”

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