A long-awaited break is just one weekend away from the teams and drivers but first, it’s the night race at Texas Motor Speedway – marking the mid-way point in the season. Last year’s event threw up a few surprises and, if the first half of this season is anything to go by, this race will too!
The IndyCar paddock were out for the double-header that is the Dual in Detroit last weekend with the wins being shared between Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Manufacturers-wise, the weekend was building up to be a Honda whitewash but, while Race 1 comprehensively was, Race 2 saw a resurgence of sorts from Chevrolet in what is still classed as Honda territory. Both Dixon and Hunter-Reay had comfortable runs to the chequered flag with their nearest competitors being some way off, something that will almost certainly not be repeated at Texas.
The championship is as tight as ever heading to Texas but, and for the first time this season, there seems to be a breakaway group at the front. Will Power, Dixon and Alexander Rossi are all within 11 points, fourth is Hunter-Reay but he is 31 points off the lead and 20 behind Rossi. The margins are, admittedly, small with a race win being worth 50 points – a gap that all the top 5 remain within. Certainly, Penske don’t look anywhere near as dominant as they did last year, Power may be leading but Josef Newgarden is back in fifth and Simon Pagenaud is only just clinging onto a top 10 position; the universal aero kits have done their job in bringing the field together, whether Penske like it or not.
Moving onto Texas and it was our current championship leader, Power, who took the glory at last year’s event. Only nine cars actually made it to the flag in 2017 and, given 22 started, that’s a very high attrition rate! Charlie Kimball took a surprise pole but his elation was short lived when his race was ended, just 41 laps in, by a mechanical failure. First out was actually Rossi who hit the wall in a single car crash, an incident repeated multiple times by first Helio Castroneves then Newgarden and finally Ed Carpenter. The biggest wreck of the night came on lap 151 when Tony Kanaan nudged James Hinchcliffe into a spin, wiping out seven other cars in the process, including Hunter-Reay and Ed Jones.
The other wreck came just five laps away from the chequered flag when Takuma Sato got on the grass and crashed into Dixon, also collecting Conor Daly and damaging Max Chilton’s front wing. It was a truly wild race that probably won’t be repeated again this year, judging by the difficulty in following seen in the Indy 500.
We’re back on an oval so the usual oval qualifying procedure will apply – single runs of two timed laps in reverse order of the championship standings.
Just the two driver changes for Texas; Zachary Claman De Melo will retake the wheel of the #19 Dale Coyne after Santino Ferrucci got his first taste of IndyCar last time out at Detroit while Ed Carpenter will be in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing, taking over from Jordan King as he does for all the ovals. Juncos Racing are absent from this weekend, as planned, due to insufficient funding to participate in the whole season so no racing for Kyle Kaiser or Rene Binder.
With the championship starting to take shape and hot up, the races are getting more and more important for the drivers hunting for the crown. A wreck here, while highly plausible, would be a small disaster for any of the title contenders, there’s still time to recover lost ground but that time is starting to run out.
If you’re looking to catch the racing this weekend then the IndyCar streaming channels are your friend as usual with the race being shown on the BT Sport/ESPN channel but, given it’s a night race in America, some of the times aren’t exactly UK friendly…
Practice 1 – 5:30pm
Qualifying – 9:00pm
Final Practice – 12:15am
Race – 1:00am
Featured image courtesy of http://media.gm.com/