Eldora euphoria spills into Brickyard

INDIANAPOLIS -- What did you think of the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway? Would you like to see a Sprint Cup race at Eldora Speedway? A Nationwide Series race? A Chase race?




Tony Stewart's half-mile track that hosted NASCAR's first national series race on dirt in more than 40 years Wednesday night has been the topic of almost every driver interview Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 20th running of Sunday's Brickyard 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) has become almost an afterthought because fans, drivers and media are so wrapped up in the buzz Eldora created.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. called it an "extraordinary" and "gutsy move" for NASCAR and was bummed he didn't get to see the conclusion because his DVR recorded only an hour and a half. Jeff Gordon jokingly suggested making Eldora a part of the Chase. Clint Bowyer said the success of the event hopefully "opened some eyes to some options with this sport."

"It's a change," Bowyer said. "We don't change a whole lot in this sport, and look at the excitement and attention that one change made -- and it was in the Truck Series."

The sport needs to take more chances, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be a great place to start.

The novelty of this event, which created a huge buzz when the roar of stock cars took over these hallowed grounds for the first time in 1994, has worn off. The buzz has been reduced to a soft hum.

A change is needed.

Move the race to the start of the Chase. And put it under the lights if the track can find the funding, which it continues to pursue.

Chicagoland has failed to create the energy NASCAR's playoff opener needs. Local fans are too engulfed by the opening of the NFL season, and God help us if the Cubs or White Sox are a playoff contender.

Bringing the Chase opener to IMS, "The Racing Capital of the World," would re-energize the start of the playoffs and this race. It would bring the event and the track the attention it deserves for hosting NASCAR's top series.

Drivers and team owners will tell you the race as it is ranks as one of the top three events in the Sprint Cup Series, somewhere after the Daytona 500 and either behind or before the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Moving it to the start of the Chase would strengthen that claim, although personally, as a NASCAR purist, the Southern 500 at Darlington and spring race at Talladega are first in line behind the 500 and 600.

But at least give it a shot.

"Let's throw Eldora in there while we're at it," Gordon said of the Chase. "Should [we] have a road course in the Chase? The Brickyard? Should Bristol be in the Chase? There are so many tracks that deserve to be in it.

"I'll say what I've always said. At the beginning of the year, there should be a lottery or some type of event that picks the 10 races that are in the Chase. Maybe there are some that are always part of it. Maybe it always ends in Homestead. I don't know. But I'd like to see it change all the time so we don't have the same 10 in every single year."


It's what the Chase needs. It's what IMS needs.

Gordon's idea of a lottery would win over many fans who believe the Chase is loaded to favor five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, ignoring that Johnson is good on almost any track that isn't a road course.

But the Chase opener should be an anchor like the Daytona 500 is to open the season. The Brickyard at night would be the perfect anchor even though it would favor Johnson, the defending champion of this event and a four-time winner here.

"It would be awesome to race here at night," said Gordon, who won the inaugural Brickyard 400. "I would never want to see the Indy 500 run under the lights, but the Brickyard 400 breaks tradition. It always has -- by being the first stock car race to happen here.

"They had a bicycle race here one time. So why not change it up?"

As the Chase opener, it would take minds off the racing that often is mind-numbing here. The lack of passing would be overshadowed by the anticipation and implications of the playoffs. We certainly wouldn't be talking about Eldora.

Nothing against Eldora. It was a great event that hopefully sent a message to NASCAR that big risks are worth the big reward, particularly if it leads to midweek races in all three national series.

Hopefully it leads NASCAR to looking outside the box like it did with Stewart's track two hours away in Rossburg, Ohio.

"That was extraordinary for the racetrack, the series, the sport," Earnhardt said. "What a risky and gutsy call to go do that."

Moving the Brickyard 400 to the Chase opener wouldn't take guts, and there would be no risk.

But it would create change.

And change, as we saw at Eldora, creates a buzz.

IMS needs a buzz to get the focus back on it.