Texas Preview- Can Racing Save the Race?

Fans never know what kind of race they will see at Texas Motor Speedway. There have been spactatcular close duels, leaders crahing near the end of the race, photo finishes, and snozzers. Lots of snoozers.

In 2022 before the final practice, one car from each team except A. J. Foyt Racing, who opted out, ran a brief session on the high line which had been undriveable. The rubber they put down helped during the race. It allowed josef newgarden to pass Scott Mclaughlin comong out of the final corner.

Attendance has been an issue at the track the past several years. Last year’s crowd was quite small. There was much speculation whether the race would be on the 2023 schedule. It is here, and the track seems encouraged by ticket sales. Mclaren driver pato O’Ward has given awayaround 600 tickets through his merchandise store, and he has purchased a suite for some of his sponsors. We will see how full teh stands are on Sunday.

The PPPG 375 ( Sunday, noon Eastern, NBC and Peacock) looks to be a much better race than last year. The series has designated two 15 minute sessions, 14 cars each, to run in the high line and put rubber on the track. No new PJ-1, the sticky substance NASCAR needs for traction in the high groove, has been added since last season. The only issue this year is the Goodyear rubber fromn the truck series race Saturday afternoon. Will that negate the rubbering in?

Indycar has modified the downforce package to allow some team options with gurney flaps and barge boards. The different strategies with these pieces could help make the racing closer.

Scott Dixon said in the pre race tele conference that he believes the racing will be better.

“I think the combination of the additional aero, actually haven’t looked at the weather, I imagine this time of year it’s going to be pretty cold, too, which will help. It’s an early race. I think we’re like 11:00 or 11:30 a.m. local. Those and the high line practice I think. Actually thirdly with the addition of maybe not having a fresh amount of whatever the NASCAR kind of surface stuff is on top will definitely change it as well. All three of those should make, one, the second lane a little more usable, which will definitely tighten up the pack, and ultimately make it a lot more racy for everybody. I think for the drivers you just hope it doesn’t become a pack race. I don’t think it’s going to be that extreme,” the five time winner of Texas said.

Unfinished Business

Arrow McLaren had a strong start to the Texas weelend last year. Felix Rosenqvist won the pole and PatoO’Ward, who won one of the races in 2021, started near the front. Rosenqvist never led a lap and both cars had pit issues. Rosenqvist evenbtually retired with mechanical problems.

Look for this team,with the addition of Alexander rossi, to be very string this weekend. O’Ward will be even hungrier after his near miss of victory at St. Pete.

Compact Schedule

Saturday’s schedule is quite compact. teams will have to think quickly and adjust on the fly.

Saturday’s schedule:

9 am-9:10 2 stage pit limiter practice

9:10-10 Practice 1-Peacock

12:15 pm–1:15 Qualifying Peacock

1:45-2:00 Highline practice Group A Peacock

2:00-2:15 Highline practice group B Peacock

2:30-3:30 Final practice Peacock

In 2022, cars were impounded after qualifying. Teams had to run a race type setup in qualifying. For 2023, changes can be made to the cars in the 30 minutes between the end of qualifying and the beginning of high groove practice. Cars must remain on pit road.

I look for a strong three way battle between Arrow McLaren, Team Penske, and Ganassi. Pato O’Ward will emerge with his second Texas victory.

The good racing I expect may help save the race, but will really help is stronger promotion from the track. I’ve heard there wer some local ads int he last week, but the track sign ade no otion of Indycar being there. I would hate to see this event go away. it is usually fun. This year’s race could be one of the best ones yet.,