For the first time since 1981, and just the second time since the game was founded in Cincinnati in 1869, there will be no baseball across America on the Fourth of July.
NASCAR has another kind of first in mind.
It will race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time on the Fourth of July Weekend.
For 61 years since the opening of Daytona International Speedway in 1959, NASCAR’s premier series raced on the Fourth of July, or the nearest weekend.
In 1984, President Reagan gave the command to start engines from Air Force One, enroute to becoming the first President of the United States to attend a NASCAR race.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty won his record 200th and final career victory that day.
The deaths of two IndyCar drivers attempting to set closed-course speed records at Daytona before the 1959 Daytona 500 convinced NASCAR founder Bill France that his high-banked, 2.5-mile tri-oval wasn’t suited for open wheel racing.
Roger Penske has other ideas.
The new owner of IMS jumped at the chance to schedule both series at the Brickyard after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled IndyCar’s entire May schedule.
Thus, IndyCars will compete in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the infield road course Saturday, followed by the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Then the Cup Series will run on the 2.5-mile oval on Sunday.
Penske reportedly is considering moving the Indianapolis 500 back to Memorial Day, so Formula One drivers from Monaco and NASCAR drivers from the Coca-Cola 600 can compete in it.
Kevin Harvick, the 2019 winner, can join Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch as the only back-to-back Brickyard 400 winners.
Harvick grew up with a framed autographed photo of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and fellow Bakersfield native Rick Mears on his wall. “Hope to see you here,” the Indy 500 victory lane photo was enscribed.
“I grew up with Rick’s son Clint at the Go-Kart track,” Harvick said. “It was so cool to see Rick and Roger Mears at the track, because of the incredible heritage of success they had at Indianapolis. To know Rick was from Bakersfield was so special.”
Said Mears: “I followed his career. Even at young age you could see Kevin was going to be special. He would have done very well in IndyCars, too.
“Whether you’re in an IndyCar or a stock car, the car talks to you. I describe it as shouting in NASCAR and whispering in IndyCar. It talks to you to get you to do what it wants, and Kevin understands that.”
Closer to home, the ARCA/Menards (formerly West) Series returns to Irwindale Speedway, followed by one of Los Angeles County’s premier fireworks shows.
“I think it’s great when you can have combination events like this weekend,” Harvick said. “Roger Penske is going to do some amazing things with the Brickyard, and this is just the start.”