One of the bigger stages on the IndyCar schedule is Texas Motor Speedway. The series has operated at the Ft. Worth, Texas, one-and-half mile D-shaped track since shortly after its inception in 1996. But IndyCar may not be back in 2013.
The just concluded Firestone 550 saw Justin Wilson win in front of nearly 70,000 fans on Saturday night (June 9). It's a fast track with Alex Tagliani having taken the pole at 215.691 mph (source - ESPN). The race had intrigue and a thrilling end when Graham Rahal hit the wall - Wilson taking the lead with less than two laps remaining.
There were a lot of unknowns and apprehension, considering Texas is a sister track to Las Vegas where the season ended tragically last year with Dan Wheldon's death. That situation was created primarily from pack racing because the cars were essentially flat out with little control. But last Saturday night, there was little pack racing except on restarts and even then, it thinned out relatively quick. This was due to new cars with less downforce that gave the drivers more car control and forced teams to care for their tires too. It spread the field out and in fact, there were only six cars on the lead lap at the finish.
It made a for a good show but with all this said, IndyCar's partnership with Texas Motor Speedway and the track president Eddie Gossage is, well, poor. The relationship became more strained when IndyCar officials delayed their decision to race at Texas this year and changed the race date, moving it back a week - no longer immediately following the Indy 500. Another issue is the series sanctioning fee but maybe the biggest concern is over safety.
The drivers weren't enamored with running at Texas because of the potential for pack racing but the decrease in downforce seems to have settled that problem for the most part. But still, some drivers don't like the cars sliding around so much - then again, drivers will complain, that's their nature. But the biggest concern over safety is the fencing.
Dan Wheldon's head hit a pole which was on the inside of the fencing at Las Vegas. Texas has the same fencing and Oriol Servia has led the way with the drivers' concerns in this regard. Servia stated last week this problem needs addressing: "I am not somebody out there every weekend complaining. This is one matter that means that much to me."
Changes have worked
But as far as the racing on the track is concerned, the drivers seemed fairly content. But does that have any bearing on Texas' future? There have been no discussions between IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and Gossage. Bernard did say if IndyCar came back to Texas, he wants to be the promoter. Said Bernard: "I loved being the promoter of that race," Bernard said of Las Vegas, a track owned by the same Speedway Motorsports group that owns TMS. "If Eddie Gossage would allow me to take that same deal we had in Vegas, I'd be very interested in it, but he's not going to." (Source - USA Today)
Car owner Dale Coyne whose team with Wilson onboard won the event at Texas said: "We put out a great product. The racing was good, the passes were good, and it was a safe race. This has always been a staple of the series, and I think it would be very important to come back here again." (Source - Yahoo! Sports) It would seem all the changes to the cars have made a difference.
Hopefully, the race can continue because as a fan, although pack racing is fun to watch, it's not practical or safe - the new cars seem to have put the driver back in full control. I thought the drama and rousing end to the race gave just as much excitement as the pack racing did. But it's up to the powers that be … so Bernard and Gossage need to talk.
Sources - IndyCar
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.