After the NASCAR industry ticked off another box in the “new” category over the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, winning team owner Rick Hendrick tossed out another one to try.
“I’d like to see a street race,” Hendrick said. “Hopefully, we’ll just continue to work outside the box. I think that’s growing a lot of new fans for us.”
After undergoing a facelift, Atlanta was a brand-new racetrack that took it from a traditional mile-and-a-half facility to a superspeedway. It continued what’s been a trend lately for the industry, which started the year by racing in the L.A. Coliseum on a purpose-built short-track.
Next month, Bristol Motor Speedway hosts the second edition of its dirt race, a concept that was brought to life a year ago by the same folks (Speedway Motorsports) that changed Atlanta.
“I think it’s great for NASCAR,” Hendrick said of how the sport is evolving. “The stadium brought a lot of new fans in. The dirt track, I’ve got people coming out of the woodwork wanting to go to Bristol now for that race. I think it’s exciting for the fans, and the drivers are adapting well. This car, we can basically run the same car everywhere. So, I think it’s great for the sport.”
A street course would appear to be the next event for NASCAR to look at, and it’s something that Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president, racing development and strategy, has admitted is on the radar. But there is no timeline to making that happen, and all options remain on the table as to where it would be held. Chicago comes to mind for many after NASCAR and iRacing partnered for a virtual race on a course built there last year.
NASCAR’s top series has never competed on a street course.
“I just think it’s exciting,” Hendrick said. “If there’s a right street circuit that we could race on, I just think something different brings in a new level of fan, and it’s exciting and something different to talk about. I just think if you keep changing it up and it just seems to bring in a lot of new people.
“Just doing something different than we’ve done for years and years is good for the sport.”