Final Texas Notes and Other Items

Photo: Indycar, Chris Owens

For a look at what being at Texas Motor Speedway was like, read this great piece by Racer magazine’s Joey Barnes, one of five media people on site. https://racer.com/2020/06/08/barnes-the-loneliest-race/

It’s probably a good thing the next race is four weeks away. The crews need to rest up after their exhausting day Saturday.

This weekend reminded again of how old I am. I have seen multiple wins in person by the  three  drivers with the most wins in Indycar history. Before you ask, I never saw Ralph de Palma win a race.

Is it August, er October, er, Next May Yet?

While it was reassuring to hear Roger Penske say the Indianapolis 500 will run with fans  present or not at all, I’m still not sure when that will be. August seems too soon, especially with news of the Indiana State Fair’s cancellation. The fair was schedule to run August 6-23.

October, especially early in the month holds the promise of pleasant weather. The race would probably need to start earlier since sunset will be before 8 pm. Also, an October race would likely necessitate a compacted schedule. We could see practice Tuesday-Wednesday; qualifying Thursday-Friday, and the race Sunday. October 11 would be the likely date since the Harvest Grand Prix is the weekend before.

Whither Bronze Badges?

I’m hearing Bronze Badges will be honored at the Harvest Grand Prix since they can’t be used for the July 4 GMR Grand Prix. I’m not sure what the policy is for the Indianapolis 500. Would Indycar or IMS want that many people in the garage area? If they take that access away from badge holders, will something else be offered?

The only thing certain in 2020 is uncertainty.

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Genesys 300

Nice that NBC acknowledged what is going on in the country at the start of the broadcast.

It was a race. It was a nice distraction from everything else happening in the world. We got through it. Not the best race ever, but drama was beginning to build near the end. Rosenqvist made a poor decision to pass when he did.

Scott Dixon now has a chance to get his 50th career win this season. I hope it comes at a race where fans are allowed.

I was surprised there weren’t more cautions. VeeKay and Palou’s accident I thought would be the first of rookie accidents all night.

This was probably not the best race to showcase on NBC.

Passing seemed to improve as the night wore on. I hope that high part of the track can be improved for next year.

A 5-7 lap window to require tire changes might have put more strategy into the race. There was mor strategy than i expected with the yellows and teams deciding to pit early. Thanks to NBC for keeping track of tire laps on screen.

Solid runs for Veach, Carpenter, Daly, Askew, and Kanaan.

Kimball lost what would have been a terrific debut for A. J. Foyt Racing. It was nice to see the Foyt cars competitive.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had an amazing run recovering from the issues at the start to finish eighth and on the lead lap.

Conor Daly is the best thing that has happened to Carlin racing since they entered Indycar.

Oliver Askew is exactly what I thought- patient and steady. It was a great job for a rookie at Texas to move up 11 places.

I can’t remember seeing so many cars have issues on the grid before engines fired.

Pit crews were rusty from the layoff, but they will get back into form next month.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some more detailed thoughts. I’m just glad that there was a live race to watch, it was a safe night, and that we all had a taste of the normal for a few hours today.

Thanks for following along today.

 

 

Newgarden On Pole for Genesys 300

Josef Newgarden nipped Scott Dixon for the pole for tonight’s Genesys 300. Newgarden, the final qualifier, averaged 215.740 to beat Dixon by 0.03 seconds.

Takuma Sato crashed during his qualifying run. He will likely start in his backup car.Rinus VeeKay, who had crash in practice, did make an attempt. Neither did Santino Ferrucci. A statement from Dale Coyne Racing said the car didn’t feel right.

Starting grid will be up in a few months minutes.

Dixon Leads Practice; Tough Day for ECR

Scott Dixon moved to the top of the speed chart with two minutes left in the two hour practice session for tonight’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The session in very warm temperatures was interrupted three times for incidents. Two of the stoppages were caused by cars from Ed Carpenter Racing.

About 15 minutes into practice rookie Rinus Veekay drove too far below the white line in turn 2 and crashed hard into the outside wall. The car suffered heavy left side damage, including the gearbox. The crew is trying to get the car ready for qualifying at 5 pm Eastern time. they may use some parts with Air force branding from Conor Daly’s road course car.

With about an hour left, Ed Carpenter spun on the exit of turn 4. He made very light contact with the wall and punctured a rear tire. Carpenter complained of understeer just before the spin.

Two minutes after practice resumed, Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in turn 2. There was some damage to the car, but it should be ready for qualifying.

Hondas dominated the session, at one time holding the first six spots. Three Andretti Autosport drivers, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach, and Colton Herta, swapped the lead for about 15 minutes. With two minutes left in the session, Scott Dixon  moved to the top with a lap of 215.995 and held on until the checkered flag.

The top 12:

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Notes

A big concern for tonight’s race is the dark sections of the track where a traction compound was put down for the NASCAR race. There is no grip in that area and drivers had a difficult time holding on if they got too much of their car in it. I hope this doesn’t cause the race to be a single groove processional show.

Tony Kanaan’s 7-11 car looks amazing.

Pato O’Ward had the quickest Chevrolet and third fastest in the session.

Five teams had drivers in the top 10.

It was nice to see Charlie Kimball in a Foyt entry finish 11th.

Three Andretti drivers were in the top 10. Alexander Rossi and Hunter-Reay were not two of the three.

The six newest drivers in the field have an average age of 21 years, 4 months. All are in their first or second year in the series. The full field average is just over thirty years,  Kanaan and Takuma Sato raise it to that level.

Race preview from yesterday:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2741819644

 

 

All Texas in A Day

Greetings from Texas Motor Speedway. Just kidding. Of course I’m in Indianapolis as we prepare for the first Indycar race of the season. Coverage of all sessions for the Genesys 300 can be viewed on various NBC channels beginning at 1 pm Eastern. Today’s schedule and broadcast platforms:

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After the race, NBCSN will present a 30 minute post race show. The first 30 minutes of practice is dedicated to rookies and veterans who have not raced at Texas previously. Approximately four hours will be on television.

Look for coverage here at The Pit Window after each session.

Unknowns Make for Intriguing Indycar Opener

The NTT Indycar Series finally gets its season going tomorrow night at Texas Motor Speedway. The Genesys 300 is one of only two races this season running on its original date.  The second race at Iowa July 18 is the other one. The 1.5 mile oval has hosted Indycar since 1997.

Saturday will be a day of unknowns. The new aeroscreen gets its first test in racing conditions and its first night trial. How will the 35 lap tire limit play out? Five drivers have not driven at Texas before. Will they be a factor? Will the COVID protocols in place be effective? Are the drivers bothered that there will not be fans in attendance?

The Aeroscreen

Texas heat might play a factor in the midday practice and qualifying sessions. We will get a good idea about what further work may need to be done for cockpit cooling. As the sky darkens during the race, how will the drivers’ vision be affected? Scott Dixon expressed concern about the screen at night but thinks everything will be fine.

The added weight of the screen and the higher center of gravity it creates will affect tire wear. This is one of the reasons for the tire limit.

Will tear offs cause someone a problem? The short stints may not help provide an answer.

35 Lap Stints

Indycar has mandated a maximum of 35 laps on a set of tires during the race. I like this idea better than competition cautions since it keeps the track green, but teams should have some latitude. The pit windows CART employed might be a better idea. It would throw some strategy into the race.

We could see some teams pitting slightly earlier to gain track position. Will some teams take fuel every second stop or short fuel each time? I have not heard what penalty will be assessed for a car that exceeds 35 laps on a stint.

Is 35 laps long enough to allow for some tire wear? Is pack racing going to result because the tires are not falling off?

Texas Newbies

Three rookies, Alex Palou, Oliver Askew, and Rinus VeeKay not only begin their Indycar careers tomorrow night, but begin at a very challenging track. Pato O’Ward and Jack Harvey will also be racing at Texas for the first time. These five drivers will have their own 30 minute session immediately prior to the practice session. Thirty minutes may not sound like much, but it does give them plenty of room to figure out the track and get a sense of how fast it is.

It does concern me having Texas as the season opener, especially after such a long layoff for everyone. Adding rookies to the mix also causes me some worry.

COVID Protocols

Indycar is fortunate that NASCAR has had several races since the pandemic began and is able to observe how their safety protocols have worked. From what I have heard, they are working well.

Indycar teams may bring no  more than 20 people to the track, including the driver. Several teams are bringing fewer personnel. The teams will be housed in every other garage. Pit boxes are extended to 45 feet from 40 feet. Everyone entering the track will have their temperature taken. Masks are required.

If this is what is needed so that racing can occur, I’m fine with it. The last thing we need is for someone in the paddock to get ill. That would probably shut down the season.

No Fans

We can joke all we want to about how it won’t look much different than many of the recent Texas races, but fans do bring some energy that I feel does come across on television. The lack of people in the stands will be most noticeable before and after the race. During the race I never notice the stands anyway.

It may be something we need to adjust to.

The Race

Look for the big three to control the show tomorrow. It could come down to a battle between Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi. Texas usually comes down to a late strategy call. If that is the case Saturday, Newgarden will win again.

Notes

We are finally going racing. Special thanks to Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, for working with Indycar to make this race happen. Gossage has  supported Indycar since Texas Motor Speedway opened.

The schedule changes allow Tony Kanaan to compete in his 318th consecutive Indycar race. Kanaan was scheduled to only drive the ovals for A. J. Foyt Racing. Had the season began in St. Pete as scheduled, the streak would have been over.

Green flag is 8 pm EDT on NBC.

 

Daly Eager to Begin Double Team Season

The strange twisting path Conor Daly has taken in Indycar rounds another corner this season. Daly will drive for two teams- Ed Carpenter Racing on the road and street courses; and Carlin Racing on the ovals. A season originally planned to begin at St. Pete for ECR now launches at Texas for Carlin.

“…it’s strange obviously. It’s not how you’d like to do things ideally. But it’s a great opportunity to be a full-time INDYCAR driver again. So I’m going to look at it like that, ” Daly said on the makeup of his full time season.

Daly thinks his experience in the races he ran in 2019 for Carlin will be helpful this season, and it gives him a level of comfort as the sole Carlin entry this weekend.

Daly said, “By the end of the season together, or the oval season that we did together, we were fighting quite a lot at the sharp end in Gateway. I love that track, but I also really enjoy driving the car there, too. It’s great to have the support of Gallagher still, have a great-looking car to drive on the ovals this year, albeit an interesting new schedule with the doubleheader at Iowa will be interesting and everything in general about this year will be different, but it will be cool. I’m excited to get it going with these guys on Saturday night.”

He is not a fan of the aeroscreen and Daly realizes it will be an unknown factor for everyone Saturday night. He understands the reason the series implemented the device.

“I think publicly I’ve said I’m not a huge fan of it. But I understand the reasons obviously why it’s been introduced. I respect what the series wants to do, the direction they’re taking obviously. But, yeah, it obviously presents a lot of interesting variables. …Yeah, it’s exciting because it’s all new, but it’s also like I don’t know what’s going to happen. It should be interesting.”

Daly thinks not having fans in the stands at Texas will weird at first, but once the visors go down and the cars are rolling the focus will be on the racing itself.

“…when we line up on that grid two- by-two, we close the visor, that’s all that needs to be said. We’re going to be going racing. There’s going to be a pace car out there that’s going to be leading us around. Realistically all focus is on the job at hand. I think it’s going to be strange basically before and after the race. But during there’s not a lot of time that you spend looking anywhere else other than the racetrack right in front of you. It will be interesting and it will be strange.”

This is an important season for Daly, who has been an itinerant driver in the Indycar paddock for most years.  He has the ability to make a car better, as he did with carlin last season. Having five secure races with a team he drove for in 2019 should help further develop Carlin’s program.  With Carpenter, Daly has another great chance to succeed at the Indianapolis 500.