EXPEL 375- Another Dixon Runaway?

Tonight’s EXPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway could possibly be a repeat of lat night’s race. There are a couple of factors that may change the outcome. The race is 36 laps longer, 248 laps, which will require an extra pit stop. The temperatures will be warmer, which will increase tire wear. Whether these things are enough to make a better race I’m not sure. It will be just be different.

The starting lineup- Entrant points once again determine the lineup. The points used for today’s race reflect the standings following last night’s race. Setting the lineup when qualifying is washed out is a no win situation for the series. There is no way to make everyone happy. Some fans have said there is plenty of time to qualify today. That may be true, but there is no broadcast window for it, and the rules for this situation are in the rule book.

Here is how the grid looks. Green flag is at 5:15 pm Eastern on NBCSN. Coverage begins at 5 pm Eastern.

I will be back with my thoughts on Race 2 later tonight.

Kanaan Leads Practice

Indycar photo by Chris Owens

Green Flag at 7:10 pm Eastern. Watch the Kentucky Derby on NBC then immediately switch to NBCSN.

Just like getting on a bike again, Tony Kanaan got into a car for the first time this season today and led the only track time before tonight’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The session was clean although there were a few close calls when cars got a little too high on the traction patch were grip is sketchy.

Tire degradation may play a big role in tonight’s race. There is still a chance of rain. The race is official after 107 laps.

The top 12:

The starting lineup. I’m hearing that this will also be the starting grid for tomorrow’s race.

Happy May! Race Day 1 at Texas

Many of us old timers remember when May 1 meant opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 30 days of activity at the track. This May begins at Texas Motor Speedway with the first of two races this weekend. Today is packed with practice, qualifying, and Race 1, the Genesys 300 ,212 laps around the 1.44 mile tri oval. Rain is still a threat today.

All times listed are Central Time. The race conveniently follows the Kentucky Derby.

I will have brief practice and qualifying reports and a race wrap up in the morning.

Texas Preview- Caution or Chaos?

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.

Season Debuts

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.

Different Racing

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:

Genesys 300 and XPEL 375 Fast Facts

All you need to know about Texas this weekend. Copy the entry list links to see the entry lists.

Race weekend: Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2
Track: Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile oval
Media links: Genesys 300 Entry List (PDF) | XPEL 375 Entry List (PDF) | Trackside Media Guide (Interactive PDF) | Driver Video Quotes
Race distances: Genesys 300: 212 laps / 318 miles | XPEL 375: 248 laps/372 miles
Firestone tire allotment: Thirteen sets primary to be used during practice, qualifying and the doubleheader races.
Twitter: @TXMotorSpeedway @INDYCAR, #Genesys300, #XPEL375, #INDYCAR Event website: www.TexasMotorSpeedway.com
INDYCAR website: www.indycar.com
2020 race winner: Scott Dixon, 1:38:37.7648, 175.201 mph (200 laps/300 miles) 2020 NTT P1 Award winner: Josef Newgarden, 48.0578 seconds, 215.740 mph (two laps)
Qualifying record (based on track distance of 1.44 miles)One lap: Charlie Kimball, 23.2730, 222.747 mph, June 9, 2017
NBC Sports race telecasts: Qualifying, 4 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN (live); Genesys 300, 7 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN (live). XPEL 375, 5 p.m. ET Sunday, NBCSN (live). Leigh Diffey is the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton and Nick Yeoman. Jake Query is the turn announcer. The Genesys 300 and XPEL 375 races air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
At-track schedule (All times local/Central Time):  Saturday, May 1 11:30-11:40 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES pit speed limiter practice (two groups/five minutes each) 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium 3 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (Single car, two laps (Lap 1/Genesys 300; Lap 2/XPEL 375), Peacock Premium (Live) 6 p.m. – NBCSN on air 6:40 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines” 6:45 p.m. – Genesys 300 (212 laps / 318 miles), NBCSN (Live) Sunday, May 2 3:30 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES install laps 4 p.m. – NBCSN on air 4:10 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines” 4:15 p.m. – XPEL 375 (248 laps / 372 miles), NBCSN (Live)
Race Notes: The Genesys 300 and XPEL 375 will be the first doubleheader held at Texas since 2011 and the 33rd and 34th races overall, dating to Arie Luyendyk winning the inaugural event in 1997. The Texas INDYCAR SERIES race will be held in May for the first time. The previous 32 races have been run in June since 1997.
No driver has competed in every Texas race, but Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan have started 21 races. Both are entered in the Genesys 300 and XPEL 375. Helio Castroneves and Dixon have won four times at Texas Motor Speedway, tied for the most wins by an INDYCAR SERIES driver at the track. Castroneves won in 2004 Race 2, 2006, 2009 and 2013, while Dixon won in 2008, 2015, 2018 and 2020.
Six past TMS winners are entered in this year’s race: Kanaan (2004 Race 1), Dixon, Will Power (2011 Race 2 and 2017), Ed Carpenter (2014), Graham Rahal (2016) and Josef Newgarden (2019).
Power has won the pole for three of the past eight Texas Motor Speedway races (2013, 2014 and 2015). Other past pole winners entered this year are Dixon (2008), Newgarden (2018 and 2020) and Takuma Sato (2019). Kanaan won a draw to start first for the second of the 2011 doubleheader races but has never won the pole at Texas.
Six drivers have won the Texas race from the pole: Sam Hornish Jr. (2001 Race 2), Gil de Ferran (2003 Race 2), Castroneves (2004 Race 2), Tomas Scheckter (2005), Dixon (2008) and Ryan Briscoe (2010).
Drivers who have won at Texas have gone on to win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship nine times, including the last three seasons with Scott Dixon in 2018 and 2020 and Josef Newgarden in 2019.
Dixon also won at Texas and the title in 2008 and 2015. Others are: Sam Hornish Jr. (2001 Race 2 and 2002 Race 2), Tony Kanaan (2004 Race 1) and Dario Franchitti (2011 Race 1).
Twenty-one drivers entered this weekend have competed in past NTT INDYCAR SERIES events at Texas Motor Speedway.
Twelve drivers have led laps at the track: Dixon 674, Power 432, Kanaan 372, James Hinchcliffe 196, Newgarden 162, Ryan Hunter-Reay 136, Carpenter 92, Simon Pagenaud 85, Sato 60, , Rahal 36, Alexander Rossi 10 and Marcus Ericsson 2.
One rookie – Scott McLaughlin – is entered. He will make his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES start on an oval this weekend at Texas. Carpenter, Kanaan and Pietro Fittipaldi will make their 2021 season debut this weekend. There have been two winners in two races in 2020 – Alex Palou (Barber) and Colton Herta (St. Petersburg). Since 2012, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has averaged just under nine different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were seven different winners in the 14 races of 2020 with an equally tight competition projected for this season.

9 Indycar Races on NBC

NBC Sports today made their Indycar broadcast schedule ,official. A record nine races will be on NBC, including six of the first eight races. The NBC portion begins at the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park and continues the following weekend. The season finale at Long Beach is slated for NBCSN.

My NBC coverage for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 am Eastern. I assume the race will begin at 12:30 or a little bit later.

Eight broadcasts begin at noon Eastern.

I would prefer the double header at Detroit be moved to NBCSN and Road America and Long Beach replace those two races on NBC. Once again, Roger didn’t return my call.

I’m sure the network is as proud as a Peacock about this schedule.

Here is the schedule with broadcast times:

DateRace/TrackNetworkTime (ET)
Sun., April 18Barber Motorsports ParkNBC3 p.m.
Sun., April 25Streets of St. PetersburgNBC12 p.m.
Sat., May 1Texas Motor Speedway – Race 1NBCSN7 p.m.
Sun., May 2Texas Motor Speedway – Race 2NBCSN5 p.m.
Sat., May 15Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course)NBC2:30 p.m.
Sun., May 30The 105th Indianapolis 500NBC11 a.m.
Sat., June 12Raceway at Belle Isle Park/Detroit – Race 1NBC2 p.m.
Sun., June 13Raceway at Belle Isle Park/Detroit – Race 2NBC12 p.m.
Sun., June 20Road AmericaNBCSN12 p.m.
Sun., July 4Mid-Ohio Sports Car CourseNBC12 p.m.
Sun., July 11Streets of TorontoNBCSN12 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 8Streets of NashvilleNBCSN5:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 14Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course)NBCSN12:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 21World Wide Technology RacewayNBCSN8 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 12Portland International RacewayNBC3 p.m.
Sun, Sept. 19WeatherTech Raceway Laguna SecaNBC3 p.m.
Sun, Sept. 26Streets of Long BeachNBCSN3 p.m.

Note: dates and networks are subject to change

N B C-ya?

The news was not totally unexpected, but hearing that NBCSN would shut down at the end of this year still was a shock. The network, part of NBC, has been the home for many NTT Indycar Series races over the last few years, becoming more prominent since NBC obtained exclusive rights to Indycar in 2018. There will also be a change to NBC Gold in 2021. This season will not be affected.

Per Mark Miles: “NBC Sports has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift. Our 2021 broadcast schedule is not impacted by this decision. We plan to discuss our future broadcast arrangements in the late spring.”

NBC Gold, for about $45 a season, provided access to all practices and qualifications. That access may move to NBC’s new Peacock streaming service. I’m hearing $4.99 a month. I’m not sure if you have to pay for a 12 month period or just go month to month.

Indycar’s deal with NBC expires at the end of the 2021 season. When the dthree year deal was announced, Miles said it was a short deal so that Indycar could explore new broadcast developments.

What are the options? Some are good, some not so good.

Stay with NBC and show part of the schedule on USA network. The first Harvest Grand Prix was on USA in October. USA is in about six million more households than NBCSN. There are advantages to a network with more potential viewers. I actually had to find which channel number USA is on my provider to record the race. Normally, I never watch it. How long will it take viewers to find it? For 2021, a record nine races will be on NBC and eight are on NBCSN. Will NBC keep nine races on its flagship channel going forward?

Streaming options- Peacock, You Tube, and other streaming services have been mentioned. How will this affect the older die hard fans who may not be as tech savvy as the younger, more casual fans? I still don’t understand how streaming works and how you get it on a television set.

A different network? I would really prefer not to return to ABC. Their race broadcasts were not very good, they treated Indycar as an afterthought, and I found myself muting the television and listening to the radio broadcast most of the time.

Could CBS have an interest? I remember watching a few races on CBS in the 70s. I know things have changed drastically since then. I recall being singularly unimpressed with camera angles and the booth not keeping track of the race.

Whoever Indycar choses or their broadcast partner or partners, I would like to see the same announcing team for all races to provoide continuity. I hope the series can keep Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Rick DeBruhl, Katie Kiel, and bring back Jon Beekhuis.

Once again, Indycar fans have to go through some uncertainty regarding where to atch the races on television. I have faith in Roger penske and the Indycar team that they will fuind the best option possible. I am also aware that not everyone will be happy with the final decision.

St. Pete Qualifying- After Chaos, Normalcy Returns

Some thoughts about today’s qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which can be viewed at 8 pm Eastern on NBCSN:

It was nice to have the drama of the Fast Six again. This is only the second time this season the Fast Six has been the qualifying procedure.

It seems the black tires may be faster than the red alternate tires here. Alexander Rossi advanced from round 1 without going to the reds.

Colton Herta’s tire strategy looked good in the Fast Six but hurt him at the end.

Group two results and penalties caused a delay, partly due to an issue with timing and scoring. The delay created a lot of confusion as to who would advance. Indycar got it right in the end, though.

What a very nice run for Sebastien Bourdais in the A. J. Foyt Racing number 14. The team is definitely looking forward to beginning the season here in March.

While Scott McLaughlin starts near the back, he showed some flashes of speed in practice. He has a lot to learn about qualifying, but I think he will have a great year in 2021.

Andretti Autosport looked strong today with three cars and their technical partner Meyer Shank in the Fast Six.

Ironic that Oliver Askew got into Round 2 because Felix Rosenqvist was penalized. An angry Rosenqvist driving from the rear of the field will make for some excitement tomorrow.

I can’t remember a qualifying session where six penalties were assessed.

The Will Power/Colton Herta qualifying rivalry continues. I look for more clashes between them next year, with Herta winning a few more times.

Power’s fifth pole of the year puts him within five of Mario Andretti’s 67 career poles. Power has won 9 poles at St. Pete. Today’s was his 6th pole here in 7 years. He has won this race from the pole just once, however.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Strange that both title contenders , Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden failed to make the Fast Six. Dixon starts 11th and Newgarden starts 8th. Not winning the pole cost Newgarden a valuable point in his chase to overtake Dixon. Dixon still needs to finish ninth or better tomorrow, but depending on what Newgarden does, Dixon may be able to win the title with a lower finish.

James Hinchcliffe had a solid day which should help his chances to secure a seat for next year. He was strong in practice, led group 1 in qualifying, and made the Fast Six.

Tomorrow morning look for my race day preview. I’ll include some things my on site reporters have shared about the the venue.

Qualifying results: