World Championship. In July 2019, IMS announced the addition of a file Indianapolis 8 hours to Speedway’s 2020 calendar. This was to be the fourth of five races spanning five continents for the new Intercontinental GT Challenge, a modern sports car series founded on the idea that manufacturers would support local teams rather than send in their own. Makers like BMW, Mercedes, Lamborghini and Audi had to transport their drivers around the world instead of shipping cars and tools. But as the championship started to grow, more and more manufacturers started sending everything out anyway.
Stuck in neutral. The opening event in October 2020 ended up being one of only four races in the series due to COVID-19 (the 10-hour race in Suzuka, Japan has been canceled due to tight restrictions on foreigners entering the country). Indy racing has continued but has also been affected by the pandemic. Only 10,000 fans were allowed in the stands, and the network was a majority of US participants – a change from previous European-dominated US races.
Back to the right track. Despite the unprecedented conditions, the first-ever Indy grid featured 22 cars – three more than in the 2019 US segment of the series at Laguna Seca in California. This fact gave promoters optimism for the future of the event. The 2021 Indianapolis 8 Hour featured 41 cars, mostly Americans, too.
Two for the road. The first 8 hours were compiled as a double-header race weekend with IndyCar racing on the IMS road track, the Harvest Grand Prix. The name was a throwback to the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a three-race 1916 event held to keep motorcycle racing afloat while America was involved in World War I that forced the track to shut down for two years. This was the last time a race other than the 500 was held at the IMS until 1994, when NASCAR first came to town.
Brand Aid. The first Brickyard 400 dropped the green flag at all kinds of events throughout the year at IMS in an effort to bring in revenue and drive the brand. Since 1994 Speedway has hosted Formula One, MotoGP motorcycles, IndyCar road racing, vintage car racing, Red Bull Air Races and even autonomous cars. All of them except their hometown IndyCars and old cars have come and gone.
brake pumping; In 2021, after years of low attendance, even NASCAR decided to scale back. After 27 years of running stock cars on the 2.5-mile oval, officials have moved to a 14-lap indoor road course. The opening Verizon 200 at Brickyard was marred by curb problems on chicane in Turns 5 and 6 which led to two red flags and other delays to clean up debris. However, track and series representatives said they did not expect this race to return to the 400-mile format any time soon. Because of this damaged pavement, the 2021 8 Hour had to be run without chicane, on a course similar to the old course used by Formula One.
Roger and Out? Track owner Roger Penske bought Speedway about four months after the first 8 Hours was announced in 2019. Penske has repeatedly stated that the deal preceded his tenure when discussing the future of racing with the media, and instead appears to have set his sights on the biggest sports car series. Coming to Indianapolis. “When we think of a sports car event, we think of a proper IMSA race at the weekend, with different classes like you see at Sebring or Daytona,” Pinske said. The Indianapolis Star, referring to the International Motorsports Federation, which runs the premier endurance races for sports cars such as the Rolex 24 in Daytona and Petit Le Mans. “This is something that will be at the top of our list.”