Welcome to Texas Motor Speedway, or as Champ Car fans may think of it, “Waterloo”.
Yes friends, history will show it was here on this very track in 2001 where the demise of CART was set in motion. Attempting to show up the IRL on one of the featured tracks of the series, CART drivers instead refused to take to their cars on race day after experiencing vertigo in practice for the ill-fated Firehawk 600. It was the right thing to do, but just like the Michelin debacle at the 2005 US Grand Prix the lack of proper planning resulted in an enormous loss of fan interest.
By comparison, a few months later on the same track Sam Hornish Jr, Scott Sharp and Robbie Buhl would all finish within .0458 seconds of each other, and the rest they say is history. Within a few years major CART teams like Penske, Ganassi, Andretti Green, and Rahal Letterman would leave the series, bankruptcy would follow, Champ Car would struggle until finally unification arrived. And here we are today, one big happy family.
For those of you who have been eschewing the IRL for the better part of the last dozen years, check out what you’ve been missing. The first and third races featured in this video of close finishes are from Texas Motor Speedway.
And now if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to shed a manly tear in remembrance of Indycar legend Sam Hornish Jr.
Favorite: Chip Ganassi. Who are we kidding here? Dixon and Wheldon have each won at the previous 1.5 mile tracks this year, and there’s no reason to think one of the Target Twins won’t do so again. The combined stats for TCGR drivers are staggering, leading 272 of 400 laps on those two events. Time for them to get a sponsorship from Whoopass.
Contender: Marco Andretti. In his first two years IRL fans noted that Andretti 3.0 was, um, underachieving on superspeedways. This year is a different story, as Marco has scored Top 5s at Homestead and Kansas (as well as Indy). Heck, he’s led 140 laps so far this year – all on ovals. Hip tip for this week: try passing on the outside line.
Longshot: Tomas Scheckter. One of Scheckter’s two career wins came here (along with three separate pole positions), and last year’s effort with Vison Racing looked good as well before it ended with the glove-throwing and finger-pointing. He’s failed to finish his last four ICS races, but if he can go the distance in his Luczo Dragon ride there’s no doubt he will be a factor.
Driver To Watch: Ryan Hunter-Reay. In case your memory fails you, recall that not only did Rahal Letterman driver Scott Sharp qualify at the pole position last year, but both Sharp and his teammate Jeff Simmons finished in the Top 7. The Hunter should have a competitive car this weekend as he continues his quest for his first Top 5 IndyCar series finish.
Danica Threat Level: DanCon One. Texas and Michigan were the two tracks last year where Dancia! nearly scored her first win. Ultimately she finished third here, but it was just a few car-lengths behind the winner, Sam Hornsish Jr. This high-speed oval is known to feature lots of crashing, although at 228 laps she could also win again on fuel strategy. Either way, it’s probably her best shot for the remainder of the season.
Stat of the Race: Helio Castroneves will be the only driver on the track that has two wins here, but he has also gone winless in his last 21 races. In fact, he hasn't won on any of the ovals on the current schedule since the Texas race in 2006.
Drinking term: “Side-by-side”. Come on, it’s Texas. Saturday night at the track, America!
pressdog says: “Probably going to be the Iceman, but I'm going to get nutty and call it for The Dragon (Scheckter). Yeah, he's on a mission. My boy Ray Leto is in full engineering effect. Look for the upset.”
Hey, Sam’s not in the race so really anyone can win at this place, although I wouldn't bet against the guys in the red cars. Enjoy the show!
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