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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?