2021 will mark 60 years of racing on the paved oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana. The track has been through so many iterations including IRP and ORP. But lately the oval has played a bit of second fiddle to another track on the property, the drag strip.
Lucas Oil Raceway leaders want that to change during this anniversary year and beyond. Stuck in a bit of a rut in recent years letting outside race promoters take over management of the oval events, the track's General Manager Kasey Coler promises his team will take a more hands-on approach overseeing the top events on the oval in 2021.
I sat down and discussed the new approach with Kasey this week and came away impressed with the new direction and greater emphasis on the oval.
Changes include bigger events, larger purses attracting top teams and drivers and a better overall fan experience including cheaper and more consistent ticket prices, free parking, free camping and much more.
That discussion got me so excited that I wanted to put together a 2021 Lucas Oil Raceway oval primer that includes five events race fans won't want to miss and more details on the changes that fans will notice. So, let's get to it...
A who's who of racing legends have graced the pavement at Lucas Oil Raceway throughout its history including the first-ever winner at the oval track, A.J. Foyt, back on May 28, 1961. Sixty years to the day, the Carb Night Classic will take over the track on May 28 of this year.
The event itself has a lot of history as a primer to that weekend's Indianapolis 500. This year's event will feature four different classes with four featured races promising a night full of action. The Road to Indy Series will have two different classes compete -- USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000. Then the track will bring back USAC Racing with its Pavement Midgets and Silver Crown series taking over to finish the exciting action.
Coler didn't want to let too much out of the bag but promised they would play up the history including Foyt winning the first race 60 years earlier. They also have boosted the prize money in this one with the most money given out to the winners in the two USAC series events for quite some time, he said.
One of the most common questions Coler has received year after year since taking over at the track is: When are you going to bring Thursday Night Thunder back?
Well, race fans your wish will finally come true on a Thursday night in June this year. Coler hopes and intends to make this an annual event that will be broadcast nationally on FloSports TV streaming service and the FloSports app.
The June 17 event will feature USAC Pavement Midgets and Pavement Sprint Cars, but the track wants to make this experience much more than just racing. They want to pay homage to this event's storied past celebrating the personalities and broadcasting that made it so memorable.
Kasey wouldn't say who but did say they plan to recognize a person who got their start during this series and went on to bigger things. And there have been some big names, who weren't big at that time, perform in Thursday Night Thunder including the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and many more.
Perhaps the most exciting and most anticipated event in some time on the oval will occur on Saturday, July 3. I think it is safe to say the SRX (Superstar Racing Experience) Independence Showdown will bring the fireworks the night before the Fourth of July.
Lucas Oil Raceway will be the fourth stop of the brand new series started by Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham that will be broadcasted nationally on CBS.
Picture the old IROC series with racers from different industries coming together with equally prepared cars. Drivers will include Stewart, Helio Castroneves, Bill Elliott, Tony Kanaan and many more. Coler said they already have sold tickets from all over the country for this event.
The biggest prize offered for an open-wheel racing event on pavement in the country will be on the line during this new event at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval Aug. 13-14 during Brickyard 400 weekend.
USAC Midgets, Sprint Cars and Silver Crown drivers will compete for tens of thousands of dollars in prizes with $50,000 available for a driver who wins two of the three weekend events and a whopping $100,000 if someone wins all three. With that kind of cash on the line, you can only imagine what type of racing we will witness.
The prize package is so big that Coler anticipates some of the NASCAR drivers in town for the Brickyard coming over to LOR to compete in these events.
The final event I want to highlight here will celebrate another milestone, its 10th year. Scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 2, the Fall Brawl will feature CRA Racing stock cars like usual, but the Lucas Oil Raceway team will be in charge of this year's event.
Again, Coler didn't go into too much detail (I think he wants to save some surprises for those of you who plan to buy tickets to these events) but he did say they really want to put an emphasis on the fall element of this race, so they are working on a few plans in that regard.
Fan Experience & Other Changes
As I noted above, Lucas Oil Raceway really wants to improve the fan experience for its events in 2021. For all of the events listed above, general admission tickets will only cost $20 in advance for adults and children 12 and under get in free with a paid adult.
They also will have free parking for each of these events, and as they try to build the atmosphere and make the facility a family destination, they will offer free camping the entire weekend of these events, which means visitors can camp for free, enjoy all the racing at LOR and then head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is just a 15-minute drive to enjoy the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 on those weekends.
As far as health restrictions due to the pandemic, Kasey said they will have to take an event-by-event approach. Right now, as we sit here in February, health restrictions only allow 25 percent capacity and facial coverings at all times. As the year progresses, he is hopeful we continue to see improvement and less restrictions but they intend to follow all local health department guidelines.