Safety on the minds of IndyCar drivers racing at Texas
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The IZOD IndyCar Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, with drivers quite concerned about their safety on this fast 1.5 mile racetrack.
Texas is the first IndyCar race on a mile-and-a-half track since eight months ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and former series champion Dan Wheldon lost his life during a horrifying 15-car crash. Texas and Las Vegas are very similar with its high banking in the turns. Speeds at these tracks can reach as high as 225 mph.
While in Fort Worth, Texas last week as part of his Indy 500-winning nationwide tour, Dario Franchitti addressed his concerns about the upcoming race at TMS.
"I'm not very comfortable with it," Franchitti said. "But I will do my absolute best to win the race. That's just the way it is."
Franchitti is particularly worried about the catch fence around the Texas track.
During the multi-car accident in the opening laps at Las Vegas, Wheldon's car went airborne and then made impact with a vertical post on the fence. The pole intruded the cockpit of his car, causing life-ending blunt force trauma to his head.
"I hope going forward that the series, all sanctioning bodies actually, the promoters, teams and drivers, everybody who works toward coming up with a better solution for stuff like fencing will just continue to make the sport safer," Franchitti noted.
One month ago, 11 drivers participated in IndyCar's one-day test session at Texas to confirm the aerodynamic baseline for the new 2012 Dallara car, the "DW12," which was named in honor of Wheldon. The test also examined the car's safety on this track. Franchitti and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, were among those who took part in the session. So did all three of Team Penske's drivers -- Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power.
"I see three guys, two guys side-by-side in the race," Castroneves said. "It will be exciting, but more on the safe side. The car is much more safe."
Briscoe and KV Racing Technology's Tony Kanaan participated in a test at Texas in February to establish the aero baseline for the car at this track.
"We came back with a different aero package with less downforce that makes it a little more challenging to drive," Briscoe said. "You can find the limits of the tires sooner. We basically can get close to being fully trimmed out for the qualifying run, and then for the race, you'll have to gamble on what you want to put back in.
"Hopefully, that's on the right direction to not everyone running the least amount of downforce possible, resulting in too much grip, which creates to the pack racing we saw in Vegas. We'll have to really pedal the cars from mid-race on."
Power is the current points leader, but Dixon moved to within 26 point of Power after winning last Sunday's race at Detroit's Belle Isle. The race was scheduled for 90 laps but shortened to 60 due to a more than two-hour delay for track surface repairs. Chunks of asphalt were coming loose in certain areas on the track before IndyCar officials halted the event on lap 45.
Dixon started on the pole and led all 60 circuits around the 2.07-mile street circuit. Franchitti placed second to give Ganassi its second straight 1-2 finish. Dixon finished second to Franchitti in the May 27 Indy 500.
"There's no doubt that the last two weekends have been a big jump for us in the championship, and I think team morale," Dixon said. "We go into every weekend to try our best, and we try to achieve the maximum that we can. I'll continue on, and hopefully we can ride a bit of a wave.
"Will has still got a fairly decent lead. So second and (Franchitti) fourth in the championship now for us, we are not out of reach. That's the main thing. We still have a fighting chance, and I think between Team Target and Honda, we are definitely going to be pushing as hard as we can."
Last year's race at Texas was divided into two 275-kilometer events. Franchitti won the first event, while Power took the checkered flag for the second. It was the first time Power won on an oval.
Saturday night's race has been restored to its 550-kilometer distance.
Twenty-five teams are the preliminary entry list for the Firestone 550k.
Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Saturday, June 9. Race: Firestone 550k. Site: Texas Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 8 p.m. (ET). Laps: 228. Miles: 342. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.
06/06 14:40:39 ET