Quick Thoughts- DXC Technology 600k

That turned out to be a fun race at the end. It was a pretty tame race for Texas.

Josef Newgarden has three wins already this season. No one had more than three wins in 2018.  This puts Newgarden in a great position to win a tiebreaker, although should  Alexander Rossi tie him in wins, Rossi has three second places to date.

If Newgarden wins the championship, Tim Cindric should get a big share of the credit. Another brilliant call to pit on the first yellow worked out and brought the car home first. All three of Newgarden’s wins this year can attributed to pit/tire calls by Cindric.

Rossi had a great save to avoid the Herta-Dixon crash. It likely saved his title hopes.

The high line never came in tonight as it usually does. Rossi lost one of his strengths without that second groove.

Graham Rahal had a quiet race, but ends up third.  Glad to see him finally have a good result in what has been a frustrating season for his team.

Remember when crew members wore short sleeves and no helmets? A serious injury or worse didn’t happen on pit lane tonight because of the mandated safety equipment for crew members. That was a scary crash in Sato’s pit. Glad to see the crewman was okay.

Dixon has made race ending mistakes two straight weekends.

It’s a shame that James Hinchcliffe  crashed. He had the drive of the race going until then.

Colton Herta also had a great run going.   He made some incredible moves. A shame his day ended the way it did.

What can we say about Santino Ferrucci? His fourth place tonight  at Texas gives him  three top tens in the last four races. Ferrucci is now leading the Rookie of the Year standings. He has done this rather quietly.  Ferrucci has improved every week.

Zach Veach continues his disappointing season.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.  Next week I take a look at the season at the halfway point.

 

Quick Thoughts- Texas Qualifying

Photo; Takuma Sato at Indianapolis last month

Note: The  comments above the break were written in real time during qualifying.

Tony Kanaan’s miserable year continues. He brushed the wall on his qualifying lap.

Great first lap by Marco then he looked like he was back on slicks at Detroit last Saturday.

After Spencer Pigot’s run I thought Ed Carpenter would do better.

Takuma Sato with another great qualifying run.

Disappointing run fir Alexander Rossi.

That is the worst Team Penske qualifying effort I’ve seen in a while.

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Anyone who says they knew before the season started that Sato would have two poles is lying. I have said he will be in this title fight all season. Sato is third in bonus points with 7, behind Rossi and Newgarden.

Sato now has 9 career poles.  Ryan Hunter-Reay and  Josef Newgarden each  have 7.

The race will he interesting with Rossi and Will Power starting mid pack.  Keep your on starting spots 8-15 the first stint tomorrow.

I wonder if the Penske cars have better race cars than qualifying cars.

The tire question will be huge tomorrow night, especially late in the race.

Marco can’t catch a break, even with a really good car.

The unofficial results:

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Back tomorrow with Quick Thoughts after the race and a full report Sunday on Wildfire Sports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas Preview- Tires and Timing Keys to Winning

The NTT Indycar series reaches the halfway point of the season with Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600k at Texas Motor Speedway.  The race also ends a grueling five week stretch for the teams and drivers that started May 10 with the Indycar Grand Prix. There is a test at Road America next week, and the race there is June 22-24.

Texas over the years has had horrific crashes and controversy.   In 1997, Billy Boat won the race driving for A. J. Foyt. Arie Luyenduyk confronted Foyt in Victory Lane claiming he had won. Foyt slapped Luyendyk. A review showed that Luyendyk had indeed won. Foyt stil has the trophy. It was the last Indycar race that USAC officiated. Simona de Silvestro was involved in a horrible crash in 2010 and her car came to rest on fire. It took several minutes for the rescue team to reach her car. In 2017, a multi-car wreck which caused a red flag resulted in lots of finger pointing among drivers and teams.

The weekend really began last night with a night practice. The practice also served as test to decide which of two tire compounds cars will use in the race.

Last night’s practice was cut short by rain at about 8:50 EDT. The drivers got about 35 minutes actual practice. the first few minutes were spent practicing pit exit with the two stage limiter in effect for this race.

Scott Dixon was fastest in the short practice session with a lap at 219.3 mph. Today’s schedule: All times Eastern

Pit Stop Practice and Practice 2       2:30-4:00  NBC Gold

Qualifying                                               6:45-7:45    NBC Sports and NBC Gold

 

This weekend’s race could either help drivers close in on points leader Josef Newgarden or put someone too far back to contend the rest of the year.

Since 2011, only three drivers who have won this race went on to win the championship the same season. Scott Dixon has done it three times, last year,  2015, and 2008.  Dario Franchitti won the race and the title in 2011. Helio Castroneves has won four times, and Dixon has three victories.

Winning the pole at Texas doesn’t mean race success, either.  In the 30 previous races, only five  drivers won from the pole- Sam Hornish, Jr. in 20001,  Gil de Ferran in 2003, Helio Castroneves in 2004, and Tomas Scheckter in 2005; Scott Dixon is the last driver to win from pole in 2008. Power has won the pole three times in three straight years- 2013-2015.

Daly’s Second Start

Conor Daly makes his second start of the season, driving for Carlin Racing. he replaces Max Chilton, who has decided not to drive on the remaining ovals this year.  Daly finished 10th in the Indianapolis 500 driving for Andretti Autosport. He drove for Carlin ‘s GP 3 program in 2011.

In 2016 at Texas Daly was involved in crash with Josef Newgarden. Newgarden was injured but still was able to race at road America two weeks later. The 2016 race was later halted by rain after 78 laps and finished in August.

Strong Track for Penske

Four of the last six poles at TMS have been won by a Penske Chevrolet.  Newgarden won the pole last year.  Power, as previously stated, won the pole from 2013-15. Race results for Penske have been mixed, with only two wins in the last six years. The most recent win was by Power in 2017.

With all three Penske drivers fighting for the title,and possibly the win,  the drivers will be taking points from each other, leaving an opening for Dixon or Alexander Rossi to gain ground.

How the Yellows Fall

The outcome of the race usually comes down to when the last yellow flag falls and who survives the attrition this track seems to produce.  A caution with less than ten laps to go will result in cars behind the leader going to the pits for fresh tires. The leader is stuck maintaining his position. His only hope is for a yellow with three laps left.

Tires

The rain shortened practice may make tires more of a question mark. this was the only practice that was at the same time of day as the race.  At that, just a few minutes after the green flag time, the rain began.

Firestone brought a different right front in case their first choice blistered.  The hope is that tire wear will be more of a factor this year. it may be another race where the last driver to get fresh tires wins.

Inaccurate Predicitions

At the season’s halfway point, I have a choice. i can get a prediction right or run the table and continue to get them all wrong.  I will try to get at least one right.

Pole: Hunter-Reay

Race: Dixon

Like Detroit last week, this race could be another good day for Dallara. I just hope it is a safe race.

Look for Quick Thoughts after qualifying and the race here and a full race report on Sunday on Wildfire Sports.

 

 

Daly to Drive Car 59 at Texas

Photo from @CarlinRacing via Twitter

Yesterday Carlin Racing announced that Conor Daly will drive car 59 at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, replacing Max Chilton. Chilton, who failed to qualify for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 last month, will not drive in any of the four remaining  oval races- Texas, Iowa, Pocono, or Gateway- this season, citing “risk management”concerns.

Daly drove for Andretti Autosport in the 500, qualifying 11th and finishing 10th. As of now, this is a one race deal with Carlin. Drivers for the other ovals will be announced later.

The Texas entry list:

screenshot_20190604-144524.png

I believe it is a driver’s right to choose which races he wishes to enter.  Like Mike Conway, Chilton feels that ovals are not worth the risk to him.  I respect his decision to step out of the car for these races.

 

 

Indycar Drivers’ Licenses and Thoughts on the Mad Silly Season

Catching up on a few items from Indycar over the past week:

Last week Indycar in conjunction with the five year plan for Indy Lights, introduced a procedure to obtain an Indycar driver’s license. The criteria grants automatic eligibility to drivers who race in Formula 1 or NASCAR or have a predetermined level of success and/or experience in other series.

Indy Lights drivers become automatically eligible by finishing in the top three in one full season or the top five over two full seasons. Drivers in other series can get a license by accumulating a set number of points over a two year period.

The license criteria allows for exceptions. Among this season’s drivers, Robert Wickens is an example of someone who would have needed an exception and most likely would receive one based on his experience. Santino Ferucci likely would not have gotten a license.

The point values  and criteria for exceptions have not been announced.

I like that Indycar is implementing this system. It should strengthen the grid. Will it prevent ride buying? Not necessarily. It might actually force owners who rely on ride buyers to hunt for sponsorship on their own. Another possible consequence is a case where an owner needs a driver to bring money, but that driver isn’t eligible for a license. How will that exception be handled? Could it cost the grid a car? Would that owner have to sit out?  Like the Road to Indy five year plan, this is still a work in progress, but it is a step in the right direction.

The Three Headed Silly Season- Drivers, Teams, Tracks

Usually Silly Season is all about drivers. This year it is about drivers, teams, and tracks. The one key driver is Scott Dixon, who is a free agent at the end of the season. Will he stay at Ganassi, take what’s rumored to be a gigantic offer from McLaren, or move to Team Penske, as Robin Miller mentioned on the NBCSN Mid-Ohio broadcast?  My guess is he sticks with Ganassi. The McLaren money is untouchable by anyone else, but there are a lot of unknowns with a new team. Dixon at Penske would sap a lot of the rivalry out of the series.

 

Which shade of orange will Scott Dixon wear next season?

Team Shuffles?

Andretti Autosport is planning on having McLaren bring two cars to Indycar next and assumes McLaren  will be in a technical partnership with AA. That would give Andretti eight drivers. Meanwhile, Harding Racing is looking for a technical partner, possibly with Andretti. Two Andretti cars could become a part of Harding’s stable along withe the potential two cars Harding plans to run next year. Got all that? This would give Andretti full or partial control of one third of the grid.

I admire Harding and Juncos Racing going alone this year. A partnership with an established team would help speed their development. However I think eight is too many cars for one owner to have a hand in. I have thought for years Andretti Autosport was spreading itself too thin, yet they keep producing results.

Belardi Racing is looking to expand its entry beyond the 500 next year. Belardi was affiliated with A.J. Foyt Racing for the 500 this year. the car was driven by James Davison. They are also looking to expand their Indy Lights program. This is what more Indycar owners need to do- have an Indy Lights program and develop a driver in their system. It would instantly give more value to a ride in Lights.

The Schedule

We know a little about the schedule from track announcements and an assist from the recently released IMSA schedule. It’s what we don’t know that is preventing a final announcement.

What replaces Phoenix in the Spring? I can’t imagine the series would go dark for five weeks from the St. Pete opener  March 10 to April 14 at Long Beach. The gap to Phoenix was too long at three weeks. With Iowa moving to July 20, does Mid Ohio keep its date the following weekend?

Speaking of Iowa, great news that this will be a Saturday night race again. The racing has always been better there at night.

While Belle Isle got the go ahead from the advisory committee, the race is not officially on until the Michigan department of Natural resources approves it. IMSA has their Belle Isle event listed as tentative on their schedule.

Is there another new track coming on board? Mark Miles has said there will be 17 races again.

The IMSA schedule shows the sports car series at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca the week before the Indycar finale there. I don’t understand how either event will draw much of a crowd. Two major events on back to back weekends cannot help a track’s bottom line. The only remedy would be a discounted combo ticket or a season pass. This sounds iffy for a good crowd at the Indycar finale.

Notes

Colton Herta had his first Indycar test at Portland  with Harding Racing.

Sportscar driver Colin Braun has expressed interest in getting an Indycar ride for next year. The announcers on the IMSA telecast said he would be testing a car. I don’t think he has one scheduled at the moment.

Another sportscar team, Dragonspeed (not Jay Penske’s outfit) is also interested in forming an Indycar team.

With all the expansion planned by current teams and all the possible new entries, the grid could be quite crowded next year. realistically, probably not all of these will pan out, but I do look for a larger grid and even more entries at Indianapolis in 2019.