Gossage to Step Down at Texas; ECR Gains May Sponsors

Photo of Eddie Gossage from TMS website

Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, announced this morning that he will retire after the June 13 NASCAR All-Star race at TMS.

“The timing just feels right after 32 years with the company,” Gossage stated. “The Smith family and Speedway Motorsports changed my life and I will forever be appreciative and grateful.

 “Before my wife Melinda and I chart our next adventure, I’m thankful that I get to come full circle as a promoter with the NASCAR All-Star Race.”

Gossage has been a staunch supporter of Indycar racing at his facility throughout his 25 years as president of the track. There have been disputes with Indycar over dates and sanctioning fees, but Gossage made sure that the open wheel cars made at least one annual appearance in the Lone Star State.

His retirement might affect Indycar’s schedule in the long run. Texas Motor Speedway is the only track in Texas where Indycar races currently.

VeeKay, Daly Have New Sponsors

Today Ed Carpenter Racing unveiled new sponsorship which Conor Daly will run in this weekend’s GMR Grand Prix. MannKind Corporation will be the primary sponsor of the number 20 car for the fifth round of the NTT Indycar Series.

MannKind has developed an insulin product which is inhaled rather than injected. The “Tired of Pricks?” tagline is abit edgy. Try to keep it in context if you can.

From ECR news release

Rinus VeeKay’s number 21 will carry Bitcoin livery in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Carpenter plans to use Bitcoin in his operation. From the news release:

“ECR will also be the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES team to integrate Bitcoin as a payment option for all of its employees. The first decentralized sponsorship in the history of racing will empower not only ECR on the track but the Bitcoin community off. In addition to the No. 21’s black and orange scheme, Bitcoin will be present on ECR’s other Indianapolis 500 entries..”

From ECR website

I’ll be back later with my GMR Grand Prix race preview.

Pato EXPELS His Frustrations- Quick Thoughts on the EXPEL 375

Photo: Pato O’Ward celebrates his first Indycar win. Photo by Chris Jones, Indycar

Finally. Pato O’Ward knew he could win Indycar races before he even raced in the series. I remember his first press conference at Sonoma in 2018 before his first Indycar start. There was a quiet confidence about him. I felt then that I was looking at a future Indycar Series star. Today the road to stardom in the Indycar Series officially began.

O’Ward’s first series win came tonight with a series of strong passes, including moving past two cars on the second restart. His car was one of the strongest the entire race and the pit strategy on the final stop put him in a position to go for the win. he showed the patience he has sometimes lacked in waiting until the right moment to overtake Josef Newgarden with 23 laps to go. This won’t be his last win of 2021. We have a new contender for the championship.

Slow Start

Scott Dixon brought the field to the green flag at a slower than normal pace. The resulting six car pile up at the back of the pack caused the first 18 laps to be run under caution. I was surprised there was no red flag, but I assume the television window played a part in keeping the lap count going.

Alexander Rossi is off to another frustrating start to his year. He is more irritated this year about it because he feels his car is more competitive than it was in 2020. Rossi felt Indycar should have held qualifying for today’s race. That may not have prevented the accident, but I see his point, that some of the drivers involved in the wreck would have started further toward the front.

One of the problems with double header weekends is it is hard to deviate from the schedule. A last minute call to qualify today would have caused teams to scramble for an extra session. Indycar might want to look at building some flexibility into their double header schedule for a situation like this weekend in the future.

Tough Weekend for Bourdais, Daly

The early promise shown by Sebastien Bourdais and A. J. Foyt racing fell apart, literally theses last two days. Bourdais was involved in two of the three crashes the past two days. Neither was his fault.

Conor Daly struggled to a 21st place finish Saturday and ended up upside down today. Again the aeroscreen prevented an unpleasant outcome.

Both Dale Coyne cars and both Foyt cars suffered damage in the incident.

It is a good thing that the next race is in two weeks. Some of these cars were the teams’ cars for the Indianapolis 500, so there is plenty of time for repairs.

A Better Race

After Saturday’s race, I was not expecting an improvement in the racing tonight, although I though it would play out differently. Sunday’s race turned out to be a darned good one. I don’t know if it was the earlier start time in warmer temperatures than Saturday, or the teams learned some things in the first race, but there was passing for position, including at least three passes for the lead.

The oval package still needs a lot of work to make the cars race better. Texas Motor Speedway has to somehow eliminate the PJ1 compound for Indycar. I would not mind future races to be like what we witnessed tonight.

Kids!

Indycar is four races into the 2021 season. Drivers under the age of 25 have won three races and have been on the pole three times. One of the poles was awarded by rule due to rain. Both Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward have won their first Indycar race. Colton Herta the “veteran” among the under 25 crowd, has won four races and four poles in his career. Palou led the point standings until the end of Saturday’s race. O’Ward is now second to Dixon in points, while Palou is third.

The future of Indycar is looking very bright.

Notes

It is hard to believe that Josef Newgarden led his first laps of 2021 in the fourth race of the year tonight.

In four races Indycar has seen four different winners from three different teams. two different drivers have won the two earned poles.

The Top 5 finishers tonight represent five different teams.

Alex Palou is the only driver to have led laps in every race this year.

This is the deepest into a season I can remember going without a win by a Team Penske driver. I will be shocked if I can still say that by the end of this month. Penske’s record at IMS on both the road course and in the 500 is second to none.

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.

Genesys 300-Quick Thoughts

Photo of Scott Dixon by Chris Jones, Indycar

Scott Dixon’s masterful drive last night has us on the cusp of history. Dixon now has won 51 Indycar races, one shy of Mario Andretti’s 52 victory total. If he doesn’t win tonight, he should tie Andretti later this season, and will probably pass Andretti as well.

Dixon shot to the front from his third starting spot and led all but four laps the rest of the night. I loved the way he toyed with Scott McLaughlin at the end, keeping Mclauglin at arm’s length while avoiding getting mixed up with lapped traffic. Dixon is the best of this era by far.

The other Scott from new Zealand, McLaughlin drove a great race and got himself into second with a great pit call on the last stop. Staring 15th, McLaughlin was steady and let the race come to him. I didn’t expect this type of performance from a rookie on an oval, but I knew he would get a couple of podiums this year.

Scott McLaughlin heading to his first career podium. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

I guess if you are a driver from new Zealand and your name is Scott, you need to be looking at Indycar.

Notes

Today’s starting grid is again by entrant points as they stand following last night’s race. Dixon is on the pole and Alex Palou starts second. All four Team Penske cars will start in the top 10. I will have more on today’s race later.

Indycar dropped the ball keeping fans informed about what was happening schedule wise. I don’t know why Peacock did not come one when pr4actice was scheduled to begin. The announcers could have discussed the situation and reviewed possible scenarios for the race.

Tony Kanaan can still drive. Kanaan started 23rd and finished 11th.

Alex Palou is the only driver to have l4ed a lap in all three races. Palou and Dixon are the only drivers to have finished in the top 10 in every race this season.

Andretti Autosport continues to struggle. Colton Herta had a solid top five in hand before his brake issue. Alexander rosi finished a quiet eighth. Jack Harvey, whose Meyer-Shank team has a technical alliance with Andretti, was seventh. Harvey is now fifth in points. Herta dropped to 10th after winning at St. Pete.

The race itself was only good dafter the final pit stop, that was a result of the restart with 39 laps to go. Texas has become an unraceable track because of the JP1 compound taking away the second groove. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to this track. It’s become another track NASCAR has ruined just so their cars can put on a staged show once a year.

Pato O’Ward and Arrow McLaren SP finally hit on a strategy that worked and reached the podium. Yje team struggled last week folowing their pole at Barber. O’Ward told me last week good strategy was the missing element in their program. O’Ward moved to fourth in points and may be ready to get his first Indycar win today.

I liked The pit stop clock NBCSN had at the bottom of the scoring pylon. I loved comparing the pit stop times when several drivers stopped at the same time. I hope this feature stays. It definitely helped capture the competition between drivers battling for a position.

Thank you all for following yesterday. Today seems less uncertain. I will have a preview of today’s race aroun mid Day. The race begins at 5:15 Eastern on NBCSN.

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.