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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from Texas Motor Speedway 2017

The Big Picture:  Texas is a great market for the Verizon IndyCar Series. That’s a good reason for this race. Other than that, I don’t know why we are going to TMS. The crowds have always seemed sparse in the extreme for every running, the weather is awful, and the carnage of equipment is truly horrific.

Event:  And yet, this event continues to be held. There are fans and track owners who enjoy pack racing and the wrecks that occur. TMS is a 1.44-mile banked oval that was just repaved and re-profiled. Night races are genuinely exciting most of the time. However, the gate cannot be enough to cover the costs, and we don’t know who’s writing the checks.

Qualifying:  The best part of the weekend. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimble earned his first career pole. The top eight positions on the starting grid were filled by Hondas. The first Chevrolet was Will Power in ninth place.

Race:   Essentially, there were two races. For the first 151 laps, there was an entertaining, exciting, side-by-side. Then came Lap 152 and a crash that retired nine race cars in one fell swoop. There was a thirty-minute red flag period.  Then the event was different: car by car went out due to accidents. Will Power took the victory by passing Scott Dixon on Lap 243. He led a total of 180 circuits. It was his 31st IndyCar victory, tying him with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy in ninth-place for all-time series wins.

Biggest Surprise: That Tony Kanaan was blamed for The Big One. We know of few drivers more decent to others than TK. He’s well respected in the paddock and on the track. Kanaan is someone who we have never seen drive dirty. So, this news surprises us. We hope it either did not happen as they say or it will not occur again.

Biggest Disappointment: 60% of the cars did not finish the race. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment were ruined for no good reason. Friends, families, and fans had to wait to make sure their drivers were okay.

Best Team:  Chip Ganassi Racing won the pole, and three drivers finished in the top ten. Scott Dixon was the only car to have anything for Power but was taken out at Lap 244.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  The #12 Will Power car sponsored by Verizon gives the telecommunications company its second Sponsor of the Weekend recognition.

What We Learned:  Honda has put overall speed over reliability this season, making Chevy the Tortoise and Honda the Hare. IndyCar needs to either start reimbursing teams for wrecked chassis or find a way to make pack racing safer.

Schedule:  The Kohler Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI is in two weeks on June 25th.

Quotes of the Weekend:

“Tony’s one of the best guys in this type of racing, he’s a guy I went wheel-to-wheel with happily for the last 10 laps for the shootout and the win here last year. Normally he’s a guy I trust my life with in this kind of racing, but today he just wasn’t driving very smart and wasn’t driving very respectfully, and took out half the field.” James Hinchcliffe, Driver of the No. Five Arrows car as quoted by Autoweek.

From the series:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): “It was very much pack racing, so we were trying to get away from the pack, which we did for quite a while. It was a way also to save some fuel and stay behind (Will Power). I was trying to protect him so that we could just go as fast as we could, and it worked out really well. At the end there, I was hoping we were going to go a little longer because I had a really good car. It was a lot of fun. It got a little crazy at the end. I tell you, it is just incredible how close we can race against each other. Good fun, good night, awesome working with Will. That is Team Penske, we all work together, you guys don’t believe us, but we do and we showed it tonight.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “That was crazy. I think the biggest thing tonight is that I learned a lot. That was the first time ever on an oval that I raced side-by-side or that close to anyone. (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) we’re never like that and last year I didn’t make it through much of the race. It was a huge level of experience gain. We made progress on the car all the way through and on the last stint, I thought we were really in contention for a top five. We were right in the fight which was really fun. I’ve never experienced any racing like that in my life. Really enjoyed it. It was crazy to spin at the end, but we kept going, so overall just a nice day for us to make it through and survive. I think my guys did a great job – tonight was a lot of work in the pits – we were adjusting the car every stop so I have to thank them for all their work.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): “Well, the thing is I was much faster than the guys on the lower line. I thought we were all going to stay together up there, but I think James (Hinchcliffe) touched (Tony) Kanaan – I don’t know the reason for that – then we basically all crashed. I thought we could make it three lanes up there. I didn’t understand what was going on, because I gave space to them, but something was going on with James and Kanaan. In the end, you know, what we have is two great cars that ended up in the wall and that’s just dumb. It’s stupid and I’m very disappointed in regards to the shape of the team this weekend. We could have been in the top spot today.”

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By Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.