Where Does The DXC Technology 600 Rank?

When I was writing about NTT coming on board as the new title sponsor for the newly-branded NTT IndyCar Series last week, I mentioned that some consider the IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway to be the second-most important race on the IndyCar schedule. A longtime reader and commenter challenged that statement and others questioned it as well. He asked me if I was one who thought it was, and I had to pause and ask myself the same question.

To be honest, I’m still not sure.

What is now known as the DXC Technology 600 is raced at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) on a Saturday night in June. Currently it runs the weekend after the double-header at Belle Isle and two weekends following the Indianapolis 500. TMS President Eddie Gossage wants Texas to be the first race after the “500”, but still have a two-week separation to properly promote the event with the new winner. The NTT IndyCar Series is justifiably adamant about having a race immediately after the “500” to not disrupt the momentum gained from the Month of May – hence Belle Isle between the two events.

TMS is the third longest continually running venue on the IndyCar schedule, behind IMS and Long Beach. The first IndyCar race at TMS took place in June of 1997, with the infamous AJ Foyt/Arie Luyendyk Victory Lane brawl. Beginning in 1998 through the 2004 season, there were two races each season at Texas Motor Speedway. The summer race would run on a Saturday night, while the fall race would run on a Sunday afternoon.

There have been twenty-nine IndyCar races at Texas, or is it thirty? In 2011, they ran the twin races, when starting positions for Race Two were drawn after Race One. There are two declared winners from that night, so I guess there have been thirty total races.

It didn’t take long for races at Texas to become known as fast and furious. Some call it pack racing, but in my opinion – pack races haven’t occurred at Texas in years. Within two years, there were two crashes that not only pretty well ended careers, but came close to ending lives. Davey Hamilton had a horrifying crash coming out of Turn Two in the fall of 2001. After years of rehab, he finally raced again at Indianapolis in 2007. In fall of 2003, the car of Kenny Bräck went up into the catch-fencing and threw debris into the empty backstretch stands as his car essentially disintegrated. Miraculously, he returned to race at Indianapolis in 2005 as the fastest qualifier; but he never raced in IndyCar again after that one appearance.

In 2016, we were reminded how quickly things can go terribly wrong at Texas. Conor Daly got loose coming out of Turn Four and collected Josef Newgarden and slammed him helmet first into the outside wall. The car of Newgarden skidded along the front stretch on its side with Newgarden as a helpless passenger. Fans feared the worst as the crash was reminiscent of Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash at Las Vegas. Fortunately, Newgarden emerged with only a broken clavicle and broken hand.

There have been many other spectacular crashes at Texas, but they only resulted in minor driver injuries if there were any at all.

There have been debates as to whether or not the NTT IndyCar Series should even race at Texas. The high banks make the track more suited to the slower stock cars of NASCAR than the faster Indy cars. Personally, I like watching the races at Texas and believe they should continue.

But that’s not what this discussion is about. That’s a discussion for another day – usually the week after the race every year in June. Today’s discussion is about where the DXC Technology 600 ranks in importance on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

That, in itself, is a complicated topic. Some Champ Car purists will probably still disagree, but I think most will concur that the Indianapolis 500 is the most important race on the IndyCar schedule. After all, the entire series is named after the cars that run at the Indianapolis 500. Anyone that thinks any other race on the schedule is more important than the Indianapolis 500 is delusional.

But after you take the “500” out of the equation (and the IndyCar GP since it is in the same market); is there any valid ranking of importance of the other sixteen races? It depends on who you talk to. Most drivers want to win Long Beach, mainly due to the prestige associated with the race. Being in the second largest US market doesn’t hurt either. But I’d be willing to bet that most IndyCar fans watching Long Beach at home would probably rank it in the lower third of enjoyable races. As prestigious as Long Beach is, let’s be frank – it can be a snoozer.

Speaking of California snoozers, other than being the season finale – I don’t think many outside of northern California considered Sonoma as an important race. I’m not sure that Laguna Seca will rank real high either, except for crowning the new champion and being a nice destination.

Roger Penske is likely to say that Belle Isle is the most important, mainly because he is the promoter. After all, it is the only remaining double-header and it is located within view of GM headquarters. But if it were up to a fan vote, my bet is that many would love to see Belle Isle replaced by any race, especially in that prime spot just after the “500”

Many in the south would say that Barber is the most important, simply because it’s the closest one to them. The same goes for those in the upper Midwest for Road America.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the DXC Technology 600 may actually be the most important race on the IndyCar schedule that is not called the Indianapolis 500.

Like it or not, oval racing is in the DNA of IndyCar. By the time Champ Car met its demise, they had eliminated every oval from the schedule. It was a series of road and street courses, and nothing more. I always thought that what sets IndyCar apart from the rest of the current racing world was the diversity of its tracks. There are temporary street courses (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Belle Isle and Toronto), permanent natural terrain road courses (COTA, Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca), Super Speedways (Indianapolis and Pocono), intermediate ovals (Texas, Gateway) and short ovals (Iowa). No other racing series in the world demands a wider variety of skills from its drivers and teams than the NTT IndyCar Series.

Oval racing is dangerous, but so is any kind of motorsport. Do you remember Dario Franchitti’s career ending crash at Houston’s temporary street circuit? He’s lucky to be alive. Jeff Krosnoff was fatally injured on the streets of Toronto in 1996. Auto racing that is 100% safe does not exist.

We fans will watch Belle Isle and Mid-Ohio, regardless of how much they resemble a parade. But will that appeal to the casual fan that IndyCar covets and wants to convert to hard-cores? What about the all-important younger fans? If they don’t like baseball, are they really going to get into a parade at Sonoma?

Ovals offer the excitement that defines IndyCar – the speed, the sounds, the smell and watching the courage it takes to go into a turn battling someone just a few inches away. I don’t enjoy watching crashes. I enjoy watching a driver getting dangerously close to crashing – but not crashing. That’s what you see lap after lap at Texas.

Iowa and Pocono are in remote areas. Gateway is in St. Louis, but as much as I like going there and despite the great crowds they pull in there – they have not had an edge of your seat race yet. Their signature moment so far for the past two years has been when Josef Newgarden nudged teammate Simon Pagenaud out of the way for the lead, late in the race in 2017.

Texas Motor Speedway is in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex – a huge market. Being in a market that size, the long and continuous history that IndyCar has at that track along with countless signature moments (some a little more gruesome than others); IndyCar needs to be at Texas.

So it may be a pointless exercise to rank the other sixteen races on the schedule. It’s all a matter of opinion. But if I ask myself which race leaving the schedule would hurt the series the most, I came up with one answer.

When it seemed a possibility last year that IndyCar and TMS might part ways, I thought it would be a huge blow to the series if it happened. Fortunately, it did not. IndyCar can ill-afford to lose any tracks off the schedule, but I’m not sure any would deliver a bigger blow than losing Texas Motor Speedway. I’m sure others feel differently. Feel free to discuss.

George Phillips

19 Responses to “Where Does The DXC Technology 600 Rank?”

  1. BrandonWright77 Says:

    For me it’s pretty much Indianapolis 500 at #1, and then the rest. Not sure if I could rank a #2, Long Beach is obviously the next highest in prestige and history and probably the race the drivers want to win the most after Indy. But it’s rarely the second-most entertaining race of the season. When they put on a good show at Texas it’s easily the second-most entertaining race of the season, but it can also be a snoozer. If I had to pick my second-most favorite race it would probably be Road America, even if it ends up being a snoozer at least we get to look at America’s National Park of Speed.

  2. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    George…As you probably know I couldn’t agree with your premise less. How can a race where the stands are not half full be the 2nd mist important race? There is no way. I would rank the 1. Indy 500(nothing is even close) 2. Long Beach. 3. Road America. After that it’s open to debate but Texas would be near the bottom for me. I think it’s the most dangerous track on the circuit and it’s the only trace that I fear. Lastly, I don’t think it’s helps anyone for you to take a shot at the “Champ Car purists”. This is a series that hopefully has mended most of the split. Please leave those names and shots out of your blogs. I don’t think you meant to be offensive with what you said but some could take it that way.

    • No, there was no malicious intent whatsoever. There is a segment out there that is offended at how “Indy-centric” the series is. What else do you call them? “Champ Car purists” is meant to be descriptive, not offensive. – GP

      • Paul Fitzgerald Says:

        George…I wasn’t trying to offend you at all. I’m not a champ car purest, in fact during the split I was totally against what Tony George did but I really lost interest in both series. I do like road racing better, with the exception of the the Indy 500, which I have attended for many years even during the split and I love it and feel it is the greatest race in the world. Having said all that, I just want both factions to be back together pushing for one great series and I get afraid that singling out one section like the champ car purest could damage the yhe series. And I know you don’t want that either. Fair?

        • It takes a lot more than that to offend me. It just never dawned on me that anyone would take offense to the term “Champ Car Purist”.

          I also wish that there was only one view. It has gotten much better, but there are still segments on both sides of The Split holding on to whatever stand they took. Many of them get irritated with the notion that the Indianapolis 500 gets more attention than Portland, for example. That was the point I was trying to make. I wasn’t name-calling.

          • Paul Fitzgerald Says:

            I get it. I totally agree with you that anyone who thinks the Indy 500 isn’t the most important race, by a lot, is crazy. I just wish TG had never started the split. It would be interesting to see where we would be now.

          • To see where things would be now would be fascinating. That could not be a blog post – it would be a book.

    • It’s funny, Champ Car Purists are the only ones who take offense to the term…

  3. While people wear rose colored glasses often, especially NASCAR fans. Older races weren’t always barnburners either. I stand by my opinion that racing has gotten dull due to lack of fatigue, parts don’t break, drivers don’t wear down. I love the doubleheaders because the drivers are actually worn out by the end. Back in the day, parts broke, drivers got tired, made mistakes. That’s why those races were exciting. Now it’s just Scott Dixon pulling away, leading 90% of the laps at Texas…. But make no mistake, those Michigan 500 races could be the same way back 30 years ago…

    I voted Long Beach but Texas is close behind as the 2nd most important race.

    • BrandonWright77 Says:

      Exactly. I watch those old races on YouTube and even though the leaders may have most of the field a lap down by the halfway point there was always the spectre of a mechanical failure, fatigue, or a crash looming that could really shake up the race, and often did shake up the race. Nowadays mechanical failures are almost unheard of, crashes don’t happen very often, and fatigue is rarely a factor, so we end up with a bit of a parade a lot of times. This can apply to just about all top-level racing series, not just IndyCar.

  4. Disagree. Not only is Texas more dangerous than other ovals, the crowd is less than half of what it was in the IRL days. And yes, the term “Champ Car purists” is offensive in the same way “IRL zealots” use it to put down people who were on the other side of their fence 20 years ago. I’m not saying Texas should be pulled from the schedule, but it’s time to stop glorifying what has become an underachieving event.

  5. Excellent post. I think you nailed it.

    For those who love open wheel racing on road and street courses, you have Formula 1 if you get frustrated with INDYCAR. However, if you love open wheel cars on ovals, there is no alternative to INDYCAR at this level. Nascar is not open wheel, and I often wonder what in the world Nascar has become anyway. For that reason alone, Texas is #2.

    The history of American open wheel racing is on ovals. That is what made INDYCAR. And that is really what will save INDYCAR. They cannot afford to lose Texas, or really any more of the ovals. The key is marketing, and its up to INDYCAR to make it work. It worked for decades before.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I will not vote in the poll as my vote for Texas would not be close to being objective. I look forward to it as much as I look forward to Indy, because I go every year and have for over a decade. It is one of my favorite parts of every year and the 2016 race is probably my favorite racing memory. I’m biased, and though I will do my best to be objective in the following comments, they won’t be entirely free from that bias.

    I think in this debate, prominence and prestige are more apt terms for what we are discussing than importance. Importance can have a similar meaning to those other two terms, of course, but a race can also be important despite receiving less acclaim than many others. While I do not feel it is necessary to rank its importance, I do believe Texas is a more important race for Indycar than most.

    “Go where you are wanted” is a common mantra in Indycar schedule discussions, and there is merit to it, but staying wanted where you are is just as important if not more so to building a successful racing series. Indycar has 20+ years of history at Texas, it has longstanding date equity, and it is located in one of the nation’s largest markets in population and in presence of both current (NTT, DXC, Chevrolet) and potential sponsors. These should all be ingredients for a successful event and they have been, generally, over the years. If the event is struggling, it is worth examining why. And if it cannot be repaired, that should be concerning for the series. I see Texas as a bellwether for the series’ ability to draw at ovals, outside of the Midwest, and in major urban markets.

    On Texas’ much-debated attendance, more specifically, I would certainly agree that it is no longer something to brag about. However, I do not think the crowd is quite as small as it has sometimes been made out to be. If you have not been to Texas, I think it is difficult to understand how large the main grandstand is. It seats more than the new main grandstand at Daytona and more than any combination of 3 grandstands at Indy. The argument that a small-looking crowd in a big oval grandstand would look a lot larger at a road or street course is pretty rote by this point, but I will buy it to some extent at Texas.

  7. James T Suel Says:

    I am a long time Indy car fan. I would pick a oval race over any other type race. Long Beech is probably the next race after the Indy500 in prestige, but for me Indy500 is #1, then Texas, gateway, Iowa, poconos, then road America, long beach.

  8. Chris Lukens Says:

    Long Beach or Texas, which is better ?
    Depends on whether you want to go to a party or see a race.

  9. paaarty

  10. Hi George, I look forward to Texas each year for the reasons you mention, it could be the 2nd most important but not until Eddie Gossage figures out how to attract more fans, Long Beach draws 200K fans over a weekend, while Texas looks 60% empty. Lower the ticket price or package it with the NASCAR race.

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