'The crowd told the story': Thrilling race, sellout in long-awaited Truck Series return

Rob Peeters
Indianapolis Star

BROWNSBURG -- Grant Enfinger had finished taking photos with the winner's trophy and made his way up to the media center to take questions. There were the standard questions one would expect. "How do you feel about the win?" "How did you handle the final restart?" "Did you question the decision by your crew to pit late in the race?"

Then, at the very end of his media availability, he was asked how he felt about the atmosphere at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and whether or not the series should return.

"I've said for six months that this place should never have been off the schedule. This is a Truck Series track," said Enfinger of IRP, which hadn't hosted a Truck Series race in more than a decade. "I mean the facility, the way it races, the fact that it's wore out creating tire strategy, strategy is part of racing. To me, strategy is a part of racing. With the stages and all, 75% of these races, strategy never comes into it. Not only do you have strategy here you also have multiple lanes to where if you have a situation where a caution comes out with eight to go, to me that's what makes a great race.

'Crowd told the story'

Enfinger recalled his struggles passing Carson Hocevar for the lead Friday, following up with, "That's good racin'."

"Do you wanna go to a newly paved track where everyone is running the same line, everyone is on the same strategy, and the guy that gets out front is gonna win the race?"

"I think the crowd told the story," said Enfinger "They wanna see us here."

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Visually, the crowd that came out to welcome the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' return to Indiana was massive. The front grandstand appeared to have no empty seats, and the Turn 1 viewing hill had a relatively large crowd of people. IRP did not release official attendance numbers, but did confirm to IndyStar that the race was a sellout.

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Friday evening's race was a thrilling show from start to finish. The ARCA race featured an enjoyable battle for the lead between two young Toyota development drivers in Chandler Smith and Sammy Smith (no relation). As pointed out by Enfinger, the worn out surface at IRP created multiple lanes which led to twelve lead changes among six drivers and ten total cautions (two for stage breaks) in the Truck race.

Fans on Twitter seemed excited, with many tweets praising IRP, and even some calling for the Cup Series to move the Brickyard to the .686-mile Brownsburg short track. That won't be happening any time soon, but it does show the passion NASCAR fans have for quality short track racing, like what was provided on Friday evening.

So what took so long to bring NASCAR back to Brownsburg?

NASCAR in Brownsburg

As the motorsports world has seen with Hy-Vee's involvement promoting IndyCar's doubleheader at Iowa, a little promotion goes a long way. Clearly there was a heavy demand for NASCAR to return to IRP and it can't be said that no one showed up. Fans waited eleven long years for this and even with little to no promotion still sold out the grandstands.

Around central Indiana, there was little promotion for the race. No billboards or radio/tv advertisements alerted fans to the NASCAR Truck's return to Indiana. And yet, the place was packed. Sure, IRP has removed their grandstands from Turns 1 and 4, but visually, there looked to be more people at the track than when SRX came to town in 2021.

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Now the focus shifts to keeping the Truck Series at IRP for the long term. In a statement given to IndyStar, IRP confirmed that the two entities are looking to resume talks, "We have had preliminary discussions about the Truck Series returning and hope to reconnect on those discussions shortly."

It's unlikely the NASCAR Xfinity Series will ever return to IRP, but keeping the Truck Series should be at the top of the track's priority list and a sellout crowd should help speed up discussions. If done right, there might be a need to rebuild the grandstands in turns 1 and 4.