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The IndyCar Texas 550 Queries Wisdom Of NASCAR’s Oval Popularity

Helio Castroneves’s 200+ mph turbo and Firestone Tires tire management wins the IZOD IndyCar Texas 550. Disney Animation’s cartoon character, TURBO, as it was depicted on the DW12 aero-panel of Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves’ Chevy-powered turbo-assisted engine Dallara race car at the 39th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2013)

The IndyCar Texas 550 Queries Wisdom Of NASCAR’s Oval Popularity

The Texas 550 leaves one with a most disturbing revelation or question concerning the popularity of oval racing. Why do fans prefer the slow, methodical … almost certain predictability of NASCAR oval draft-pack racing over the lowered down-force exhibition put on by the IZOD IndyCar Series (IICS) on the 24-degree banking found at the Texas 550?

Andretti Autosport’s #25 DW12 Dallara of Marco Andretti, pre-race co-leader in championship points attributed to consistent finishes with no wins. Image Credit: IndyCar Garage via Twitter

By any measure, the sophomore year Dallara DW12’s combined with the experienced driving talent found in the IICS had the most educated and ardent fan guessing at the beginning of last Saturday night’s race as to what factors would carry the day and deliver a most entertaining result.

ABC Sports Jamie Little catches up with IICS Championship points leaders Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti. Image Credit: Penske Racing via Twitter

Would there be yet another, different winner (first time, or not) to win a race in this 2013 season? There has been one repeat winner with James Hinchcliffe and in seven previous races run, five first-time race winners had been crowned … counting the INDY 500 as a stand alone event – Hinchcliffe, Sato, Kanaan (INDY 500), Conway, and Pagenaud. The only other race winner was last year’s IICS champion Ryan Hunter-Reay at Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

The track located near Ft. Worth, Texas has held 24 IndyCar open wheel races before and in the last seven years there had been no driver to repeat a winning result. Last year, in fact, a known road/street course specialist in the form of British race car driver, Justin Wilson, driving for Dale Coyne Racing received his second overall win in the series. Also, one can win from any qualifications position … Wilson won last year from the 17th starting position. Further, this 1.5 mile track, is noted for the most close finishes registered (measured in .1000’s) by any on the schedule.

Race Director, Beaux Barfield discusses pit-in and pit-out rules with the drivers before heading out to the track to race. Image Credit: Paddock Insider via Twitter

The 24-degree banking is a major factor in delivering the close quarters racing with a varied result because the 4-G down-force the speed and banking create has the cars set up with lower down-force which has the focus clearly placed on tire wear (for grip) and driver acumen in achieving the fine balance of speed versus longevity of GREEN Flag racing run. Longer runs and the maintenance of grip through the tire wear curve are rewarded here at Texas Motor Speedway.

Lastly, this has been an amazingly competitive season amongst the teams that where not perceived as power house teams. Outside of the very capable Andretti Autosport team, the other two perennial championship caliber teams, Penske Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing (TCGR), had yet to achieve a win and had only three podium finishes through seven races (that’s 3 out of a possible 21 podium finishes). Would these two teams continue to be locked out in winning? Qualifications had Penske Racing’s Will Power capture the pole with Helio Castroneves slotting in at P6 with TCGR’s Dario Franchitti ahead at P4. Andretti Autosport had its three of its four drivers – Andretti P2, Hunter-Reay P3, Viso P5, and Hinchcliffe P13 – in the top five positions.

The race itself starts out in the late afternoon/dusk and ends under the lights at night after a total of 278 very fast over 200 mph, 1.5 mile laps (under 20 seconds). Weather was clear, spring-like and not a factor.

Penske Racing’s Will Power leads the field off of pit lane having qualified for the pole position at a speed of 219.182 mph. “These days you have a one-in-24 chance because that is how many cars are starting and there are so many good teams and drivers,” Power said. “To get a win here would be phenomenal. My wife is from here, all the family is coming out so if I don’t win here I’m probably not coming home for dinner.” The crowd in the stands behind seemed short of expectation. Image Credit: Paddock Insider via Twitter

The final 75 laps as reported from 140 or less characters as posted on Twitter – Tweet-By-Tweet –

Formula Ràpida @FormulaRapidaV
#indycar 75togo 1. Castroneves +10 sg 2.Power 3. Reay 4. Carpenter 5. Franchitti 6. Kanaan

heriberto briceño @toni5632
#indycar #Firestone550 #TEXAS 166 de 228 #lider: castroneves 2 power 3hunter-reay 4carpenter 5franchitti @EJVISO P9 entra sato

Ricardo Cardoso @ricardo_engsoft
Castroneves pit-in. Lap 175/228. #IndyCar #Firestone550

Kenny Shook @KennyShook
The difference that new tires are making in this Indy race is rediculous. #firestone550 #texasheat

Dakota Hunter  @ElKotaLoca1499
41 laps to go: 9 cars on the lead lap as pretty much the whole field has made their final pit stop. #IndyCar #Firestone550

Helio, TK, Marco, RHR, Carpenter, Power, Jakes, Newgarden

Scott Tackett @ScottTackett24
Everyone wants a caution except for Helio Castroneves. He has a 15 second lead over 2nd place with 36 to go! #Firestone550 #IndyCar

Ash (アシュー) @racingAsh
When these tires fall off, they REALLY fall off. @h3lio @penskeracing doing a great job conserving his tires. #IndyCar #Firestone550 on @ABC

203 – Helio Marco, RHR, Carpenter, Jakes Dario, only on lead lap

Eric Smith @Ericsportsguru
New Order 23 to go: Helio, RHR, Carpenter, Jakes, Dario, Power Only cars on Lead Lap #Firestone550

ForTheLoveofIndy @4TheLoveOfIndy
RHR almost a second quicker that time by. #IndyCar #Firestone550

16 laps to go – RHR now 5.6 seconds

198 mph vs 202 mph with Helio vs RHR

heriberto briceño @toni5632
#indycar #Firestone550 #TEXAS 12 para ir #lider: castroneves 2hunter-reay 3carpenter 4kannan 5franchitti @EJVISO P9

TK, who just pitted for new tires, is out on a terror at 208 mph and a full straight difference

Podium if ends now with 7 laps – Helio, RHR, Carpenter, … TK just passes to grab P3

5 laps to go – 201 vs 198 – Helio vs RHR

Helio has opened up the throttle and leads by 5.4 sec with 2 laps to go

Erik @WeAreBullied

Penske and Helio wins the G-Force challenge at Ft. Worth – 22 point lead in IICS Championship

Mark Panichelli @markpanichelli
Congrats @h3lio , wow ! class of the field tonight ! First 4-time winner of #Texas #IndyCar race

So it’s Helio, RHR, TK, Carpenter, Marco, Dario, Power, Newgarden, Hinch, and Viso are the top 10

Eric Smith @Ericsportsguru
#Firestone550 finishing order: 3,1,11,20,25,10,12,67,27,5,14,16,77,6,19,78,83,55,4,7,15,98,9,18

BuckeyeGDO @buckeyegdo
“@nascarcasm: Typically, climbing a fence in the state of Texas isn’t something that’s met with fanfare. #IndyCar”

Randy Bernard @RBINDYCAR
Cont. @eddiegossage #indycar prime time race on #ABC prior to me leaving.  Please tell the truth when you do interviews

Tony Olufson @Tolufson
Agreed! “@tonydizinno: After all the angst over pack races in the past, enjoyed the differentiation tonight and the safe race #IndyCar”

Gotta’ love the winner’s prize – a cowboy hat and a couple of pearl handled six-shooters handed off to Helio under the flames of a podium that had his name in lights! Image Credit: John Cote via IndyCar.com

Last year we got to see a 6’3″ Brit (Justin Wilson) pop off a couple of rounds, this year Brazilian Helio Castroneves put a little boot-scootn’ into climbing the fence and shooting the six-irons. He looks almost too good in a cowboy hat.

At the end of the race, again this question pops up, why do fans prefer the slow, methodical … almost certain predictability of NASCAR oval draft-pack racing over the lowered down force exhibition put on by the IZOD IndyCar Series (IICS) on the 24-degree banking found at the Texas 550?

Answers … anyone?

… notes from The EDJE

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  1. Ralph Colmar says:

    My guess would be because there is a li’l more home grown talent in the taxis more taxis on the grid and they look something like the kind of vehicle you might drive home afterwards. Everyone knows they are not the same but something an audience can identify with counts for a lot.

    Shame open wheel is such a hard sell because there is no one in open wheel at the moment with a golden horse shoe up his …..

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