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Nathan Byrd was at Indianapolis Raceway Park for the Carb Night Classic, competing in USAC Silver Crown and midget races. (Byrd Racing photo)

BYRD: Oval Racing In Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — On Memorial Day Weekend, there is no better place to be for any racer than Indianapolis — the Crossroads of America.

Drivers from all over the world dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For decades, a traditional part of that weekend has taken place about seven miles away at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

That’s where I was for the Carb Night Classic on May 27, competing in USAC Silver Crown and midget races.

There is nothing more traditional than USAC racing at Lucas Oil Raceway Park the night of Carb Day at the Indianapolis 500 or the famed “Night Before the 500.”

Coming into this year’s Carb Night Classic, I was excited to test myself against some of the best in short-track pavement racing on one of the most challenging ovals in the world.

The last time I ran the midget at the track, I crashed after a mistake I made trying to pass Justin Grant while I was running 10th.

It was a disappointing result after what was a very strong showing and great accomplishment for my first midget race in competitive equipment.

After that disappointment, I was determined to finish both races during the Carb Night Classic.

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Nathan Byrd took a 10th place finish in the midget division, and a 12th place in the Silver Crown race. (Byrd Racing photo)

In my two previous Silver Crown races at IRP, I was unable to finish the race after competitive qualification efforts my first time on the track. The first race, I flipped down the front straight and the second race I was involved in an incident on a restart.

Goal No. 1 for this weekend was to finish the race while trying to be competitive.

It was a chance to measure myself against strong competition in a true “pro” racing series, after all of my success in club and semi-pro road course racing.

During my first practice, I was surprised how much differently the car felt from my test there earlier in the week. It was much looser and we tried to balance the car.

Unfortunately, after Silver Crown practice and the start of midget practice, it began to rain and that delayed the schedule.

When the rain went from steady mist to roaring downpour, qualifications were canceled and the starting lineup was determined by practice times. This was unfortunate because I had struggled with a loose midget and a tight Silver Crown car.

We lost out on time to tweak the setups further and were stuck without a proper qualifying attempt. However, this wasn’t going to keep me from driving either car forward in the race.

I started 15th out of 19 cars in the midget race and over the next 30 laps, made my way up to 10th place. That’s as far as I got at the checkered flag, but it was what I wanted to achieve entering the weekend.

It was a good result considering the car’s setup was still far from optimal. I also struggled with the brakes fading very early in the race. I ran 20 of the 30 laps not using the brakes at all, saving what little was left for when I thought I needed them.

In the 100-lap Silver Crown race, I started 14th out of 25 cars and raced forward to 11th. But on a restart, the car in front of me moved all the way down the track and then all the way back up the track and into me.

He spun out and I got a flat tire. I went a few laps down to the leader by entering the pits and changing the tire and finished the rest of the race trying to have competitive lap times.

I still finished 12th, which was better than I started and technically my first Silver Crown finish at the track.

My comfort for racing on ovals increased drastically over the weekend. That is great because I had to deal with a lot of adversity throughout the course of the day.

I accomplished my goals of finishing both races in fairly competitive fashion, considering the circumstances.

It was a very solid weekend and I can’t wait for the next time I get to push those cars to the limit on this famous race track.

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