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June 11th, 2012
IndyCar drivers are hoping that last weekend’s dramatic race at Texas Motor Speedway can help the track to remain on the calendar next year.
The high-banked, 1.5 mile track does not currently have a deal for next year, and and prior to the weekend there had been concerns about its propensity for producing pack racing, which was cited as one of the factors that contributed to Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident at another 1.5 mile oval, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, last year.
However, changes to the aero profile of the cars during the course of last weekend removed a significant amount of downforce, meaning that drivers were no longer able to run entire laps flat out, and also forcing them to manage a dramatically higher rate of tyre wear.
The tweaks resulted in a race filled with constant overtaking as drivers battled cars that were visibly difficult to drive.
Penske’s Ryan Briscoe, who finished third, said that he would like to see the series return to Texas with the same aero next year.
“I’ve never been opposed to one-and-a-half mile racing,” Briscoe said. “I just think we needed to get the formula right, and pack racing is wrong in these cars. I would definitely come back here with this package.
“It’s tough. Cars hit the walls, and I don’t know about other safety issues that could be improved, but the big thing is getting away from pack racing. I thought the racing was awesome.”
Briscoe’s support was echoed by Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe.
“If there was anybody who didn’t think that [race] was good, with the tyres falling off the way they did, and guys having to really look after their tyres … I think it was a heck of a race,” he said. “A big success.”
Speaking during the Texas weekend, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said that the event’s future depended upon it being financially viable for the series.
“I’ve read that it is the number two event in IndyCar for attendance,” he said. “If they can make it the number two revenue-making event for the IndyCar Series, maybe [we'll return]. We definitely want to come back if it is financially worthwhile.”
Bernard also said that the TMS president Eddie Gossage is facing increasing competition from other promoters who also want events in Texas.
“From my standpoint, [finances are] probably the biggest [issue],” he said. “But there is a tremendous amount of interest from Austin to have a race. We’re going to Houston [next year].
“So I think we need to focus on what is in the best interests of the IndyCar series from a competition, entertainment and financial [perspective].”