Indycar ends its four races in three weekends opening stint at Texas Motor Speedway with the running of the Genesys 300 (212 laps) Saturday and the XPEL 375 (248 laps) Sunday. The races make up the first of two scheduled double headers in 2021. Detroit is slated to host a double header June 12-13. Should the Toronto race need to cancel again, look for as third twin race weekend at either Mid Ohio or Portland.
Texas Motor Speedway has stood by Indycar since the split in 1996, hosting at least one race annually. There was a double header in 2011, two races ran on the same night. The staring grid for Race was determined by each driver spinning a tire. The number on the other side of the tire was where that driver started. Tony Kanaan and Will Power won the two races that night. Both are competing this weekend.
This is a crucial weekend for teams and drivers on several fronts. First, drivers want to be in a good points position heading to IMS for the GMR Grand Prix and 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Second, teams hope to escape two oval races with little to no car damage before going to Indianapolis. TMS has seen a lot of equipment torn up over the years.
We will see either two cautious races or we could see the usual Texas chaos. here are some things to look for this weekend.
Three veterans will participate in their first events of 2021 this weekend. Ed Carpenter, who only drives in the oval races, will pilot the number 20 car for his team. Conor Daly, the road/street driver of the 20, will move to Carlin in place of Max Chilton.
Popular veteran Tony Kanaan steps into the 48 for rookie Jimmie Johnson at Chip Ganassi Racing. Johnson decided before the season began that he would not run the ovals in 2021.
Pietro Fittipaldi, who drove eight Indycar races in 2019 for Dale Coyne Racing, returns to the team and will be in the 51 car normally driven by Romain Grosjean, another rookie sitting out oval events to begin the season.
Limited Track Time
With just one 75 minute practice Saturday morning, smaller teams and newer drivers may at a disadvanage. TMS is not an easy track to learn. Qualifying is just two hours after practice. Any damage to a car in practice could likely result in a starting position at the rear of the field.
Races at Texas are normally held at night. The racing changes as the track cools and the cars react to the temperature change. Both races will be held in late afternoon. Saturday’s race begins at 6:45 local time, with sunset at 8:11. The race will finish at twilight. Saturday’s high is predicted to be 70 degrees, much cooler than it is for the traditional early June date. there is also the possibility of rain.
Sunday’s race begins at 4:15 Central time and should be complete well before dusk. A high 82 degrees is forecast with a much smaller chance of precipitation than the previous evening.
No Go Zone
Teams that tested at Texas were disappointed to find that the traction compound put down to help the NASCAR race still was on the track. TMS president Eddie Gossage tried to remove it, but it still is dangerous territory for an indycar. The 2020 season opener was essentially a one groove race. This year it looks like we will see more of that type of racing. Pit strategy and when the yellow flag comes out sould determine the winner.
Veterans Return to the Top
Ovals are usually a veterans’ game. In the fist two races, second year drivers Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou won the pole and race respectively at Barber. Last weekend at St. Pete third year driver Colton Herta won both the pole and the race. This weekend we get to to watch drivers older than 25 win all the honors.
I think Team Penske wins both poles and one race. The other race winner will come from either Ganassi or Andretti.
Here is the schedule with broadcast times and channels: