Times have changed at Indy, and so has Tony Stewart

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When NASCAR first announced that it was going to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – which had, up to that point, only been open for the Indy 500 – it didn’t sit well with everyone. One of those people upset with the idea of stock cars speeding around open-wheel racing’s cathedral was a young Tony Stewart.

But as the Brickyard 400 prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary running next weekend, Stewart – who has since gone from IndyCar young gun to three-time Sprint Cup Series champion – has noted a change in his views. He still has a deep respect for the ‘500,’ a race he ran five times. But now, he believes that Indy shouldn’t just hold one race, even if that race is pretty big.

“Now with Formula One [having] come in, Moto GP, the Grand-Am Series, Nationwide cars running here, I think the mind-set has changed that it’s too historic of a speedway to run one race a year on it,” Stewart told the Boston Globe. “To be able to bring so many great different series and divisions here, it’s pretty neat that a lot of people get the honor to race at Indy now.”

Three of those series will be in the spotlight next weekend, which has been dubbed the “Super Weekend” by IMS. This coming Friday, the GRAND-AM contingent will race on the IMS road course, with its top-tier Rolex Series staging the three-hour Brickyard Grand Prix. Then on Saturday, the Nationwide Series competes on the legendary Indy oval for 250 miles.

Finally, on Sunday, Stewart and the Sprint Cup Series will go for 400 miles. Stewart has thrilled his fellow Hoosiers with two past victories in the race (2005, 2007), and he’s very much looking to kiss the bricks for a third time.

“This is an event that I definitely circle on the schedule,” he said according to the Sporting News. “To us, it’s definitely not just another stop that’s on the calendar and on the schedule. You don’t just pull in and say, ‘We’re going to go in and try to win the race,’ then pull out of here.

“When you’re here, you’re amped up because you’re at Indianapolis.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.