Indianapolis Motor Speedway track president Doug Boles did not expect there to be curbing issues Sunday afternoon.
“There was no indication earlier today there was anything wrong with that curb, so it was a little bit of a surprise for us when during the race it started having issues,” Boles said after the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
The same styling curbing has been used at the Speedway since the road course was redone in 2014. Boles mentioned it’s gone through regular maintenance of being replaced and repaired, and there had not been any previous issues. The area is also checked after every on-track session and at the end of the day, which was done before the inaugural Cup Series race.
But two multi-car crashes occurred in the corner. The first on lap 79 came after the curbing came apart and knocked William Byron out to the grass. Nine drivers were involved, including Joey Logano who was sent nose-first into the tire pack.
Officials decided to remove the rest of the curbing under the red flag. The race finished without the outside curb there, but the bigger speed bump — sausage curb — to the right remained.
“Obviously, that thing had deteriorated with that last big wreck quite substantially, and there was no way that we could justify leaving it like it was without removing it,” said NASCAR executive vice president of competition Scott Miller.
“It obviously had to come out if we were going to continue. There was some debate about taking the other piece out, but as we worked through putting the track together for Xfinity [Series] before last year’s race, there was a big ask from the drivers to have something back there because that section was just way too fast, there was the grass, and going into Turn 7 they’d probably be running maybe 15 or 20 miles per hour faster.
“We weren’t going to sign up for that. That other one had to stay, and that was the only way we were going to get back to racing today.”
NASCAR has pulled the entire curbing away at @IMS.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 15, 2021
Curbs and rumble strips are a common sight on road courses, which are used to keep drivers within the bounds of play. Miller explained it would be hard from the NASCAR tower to enforce track limits with how stock cars slide around road courses more than other racing series. However, he did acknowledge they’ve been discussed in the past, and there may be more conversation going forward.
The second red flag for a crash in Turn 6 was on lap 90. Seven drivers were involved in that incident.
“Without being able to remove the curbing that was damaged over there, that would have been our only option,” said Miller when asked if NASCAR considered ending the race at either red flag. “Certainly, we had a lot of fans here, a lot of energy, a lot of people watching on television. We always strive to finish the race with the checkered flag. If we would have had no other options or couldn’t get those damaged bits out of there, that probably would have been what we did. But the fact that we could take them out and they could actually race over that part of the racetrack led to the decision to continue.”
Miller added that it was an event with a lot of learnings that should lead to a better event when NASCAR comes back. He and Boles both agreed what happened Sunday will have no bearing on whether the Cup Series race is run on the road course again next season.
“I thought the energy level of today, our fans that came today, was unbelievable,” Boles said. “I was so excited this morning to interact with folks. Obviously, the weather was great today, so there are all kinds of positives. Our tickets, if you looked at our crowd today versus yesterday when you had Cup, IndyCar, and Xfinity all running some level of their racing on the same day, our crowd was 20 percent up today over yesterday. And it was up over last year.
“So, this was one of those events that I think we made the right decision for right now. I think we want to have it back again next year on the road course, and we’ll continue to see where we go.”