NASCAR taking Indy’s aura

May 22, 2007 4:49 AM

This Sunday is one of the most fun days of the year for auto race enthusiasts across the country.

The morning begins with the 91st Indianapolis 500 and then it’s coupled with a day-night double header of sorts where NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 takes center stage from Charlotte. Both events are televised on national TV with ABC covering Indy and FOX going into prime time with NASCAR.

A few years ago in Las Vegas we started to see a transition in auto racing interest on the "Memorial Day of Remembrance" weekend. The NASCAR event was catching the popularity of the Indy 500, not only in TV ratings, but also at the Las Vegas betting windows. Around 1998, NASCAR became much more attractive for bettors allocating their Holiday weekend gambling money.

By the time the 2001 season came around, NASCAR had lapped the Indy cars in popularity at the windows by a 2-to-1 margin. Fast forward to 2006 and NASCAR put another full lap on Indy by taking three times as much action for the Coca-Cola.

Based on the way Indy 500 action has been reported from a few books around town this year, the Coca-Cola 600 may put a few more laps on the Indy 500. There is no way to sugar coat the phrase, "slower than ever," when bookies have mentioned their action on this year’s Indy 500.

So what’s the cause of slow action at the windows and overall public interest?

”¡ Is it lack of driver recognition?

”¡ Is it lack of rivalries?

”¡ How about lack of competitive cars and teams?

I think it’s a little bit of "all of the above," mixed in with the fact that oval racing fans now prefer to see the stock cars bumping and banging around the track. If you bump an Indy car off the track, the car basically disintegrates. In NASCAR, bump someone just brings the car in the garage. Sheet metal is then bent back into shape and some tape thrown on. In other words, the cars are much more forgiving, which makes up for them being so heavy, bulky, and boxy equating to less agility.

The beauty of seeing the Indy 500 years ago was because the turbo charged Champ Cars used to be almost exclusively a road course or street circuit series. It was impressive seeing those magnificent cars set so precise come ripping around the tight turns of Indy, drag racing down the long strips and then repeating the process going as fast as possible with minimal breaking, Wow!

Regardless of all the shortcomings the current Indy 500 has, it will still always have a spot on my television. As long as they race on that weekend, I’m in. For me, The Indy 500 is an American institution and conjures up so many past personal memories of being together with my grandfather and father.

On those weekends, I learned more about my own family history and involvement in American battles throughout time than I could have ever possibly read or learned on my own. Through the words of my grandfather I learned of our family’s sacrifice in the American Revolution and Civil War, the awful fate of his cousin in the Bataan Death March, and his own bout with frost bite in the Battle of the Bulge.

So for simply being just an institution and a symbol of Americana, the Indy 500 will have my attention with a salute.

NASCAR vs Indy props

Because it is such huge day for Race fans, there are a few props that link the two together. The main proposition asks who will have a better finish Sunday, 3-time Coca Cola 600 winner Jimmie Johnson or 2-time Indy 500 champ Helio CastroNeves.

CastroNeves is a slight favorite despite all of Johnson’s accomplishments at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

The math of only having 33 cars starting at Indy compared to 43 in NASCAR coupled with the large gap between quality cars in the 500, where it appears only five cars have a real shot at winning, give the Penske driver a theoretic edge.

It truly is a great example of just how great Johnson has been at Charlotte because of all the great competition in NASCAR today.




Sam Hornish Jr




Tony Kanaan




Dan Wheldon




Helio CastroNeves




Dario Franchitti




TOP 10s



43 of 75

at COCA COLA 600



Matt Kenseth




Jimmie Johnson




Jeff Burton




Kurt Busch




Mark Martin