Grocery store chain Kroger is sponsoring the bigger and better NASCAR weekend this summer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The July 26-29 event will be called the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard. GRAND-AM Road Racing joins the NASCAR Nationwide series and NASCAR Sprint Cup series - featuring road course and oval racing at the Speedway on the same weekend for the first time.
"It's a big challenge and something we've never done before," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president and CEO Jeff Belskus during an announcement at the Kroger store just west of the Speedway grounds on Crawfordsville Road. "Everyone enjoys the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. But outside of that, there were some quiet track moments. This will be non-stop action."
The event will also be a super challenge for IMS officials. The NASCAR Nationwide series practices Thursday, July 26, in preparation for the first-ever race at IMS for that series. Then the facility must be converted Thursday night into a road course for the debut of GRAND-AM at IMS on Friday, July 27.
The Speedway is converted back to oval configuration Friday night for the Nationwide series race on Saturday, July 28, as well as Sprint Cup series qualifications. The 19th annual Crown Royal Presents the "Your Hero's Name Here" at the Brickyard Sprint Cup race is Sunday, July 27th.
The previous quickest conversion of the facility from oval to road course is three days. IMS must do it twice in two days for the Super Weekend. The back-and-forth changes will affect parking, traffic flow and fan access to various areas.
"The logistics of putting on this event and the complication was doubled or tripled," admitted Belskus. "But we've got plans in place to deal with all that."
Veteran racer John Andretti also attended the announcement Thursday. Kroger is a partner with Andretti in the annual Race for Riley in New Castle, a go-kart race fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children held during Brickyard week. Andretti has raced in 12 Indy 500's and 11 Brickyard 400's. He wants to run the first GRAND-AM race at IMS with his 19 year-old-son, Jarrett.
"How could that be more special than to get to run at Indianapolis with your son?" said Andretti. "Michael (Andretti) got to do it with his son (Marco). Mario (Andretti) got to do it with his son, Michael. I'm pretty jealous about that. I would like to do it with my son. I think that would be like the all-time high."
Kroger sponsored the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Clermont for many years. That race was traditionally held the night before the Brickyard 400.
"We've had a partnership with NASCAR since 1981," said Bob Moeder, Kroger Central Division president. "It's the longest running partnership with NASCAR of any sponsorship in the country. We're proud to continue that with IMS."
Tickets for the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard are on sale now and can be purchased here.