Texas Preview

geothumbnail
Our long nightmare is almost over. Tomorrow night, 258 days since Josef Newgarden was crowned champion of the 2019 season – the NTT IndyCar Series season will finally roar back into life with the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on NBC.

Genesys-Technology-300-logo

The IndyCar offseason is already considered long, when compared to other racing series. But this one lasted eighty-three days longer than expected. That’s how far back it was to the expected season-opener at St. Petersburg that was to have run on March 15.

All of the travel worries are taken care of. Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Palou and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay are both back in the country and ready to race.

Aside from the fact that we are all starving for live IndyCar action and would be watching intently anyway – there are a lot of other factors in play here that will certainly make this worth watching.

First of all, the aero screens will finally make their race debut. If the iRacing did nothing else for us, it got us a little more used to the appearance of the cars with the added protective windshield/halo device. But there will be a lot more to the aero screens tomorrow night than just growing accustomed to the looks. Drivers will have to get used to looking around the center post while going into a corner.

They must also acclimate themselves to the heat. I’ve heard from a few folks that the drivers are quietly concerned about the extra heat generated in the cockpits by the semi-enclosed device. I understand that much of this downtime was spent desperately trying to find a way to get more ventilation into the cockpit, without further disrupting the aerodynamics of the aero screen. I’m not sure if they were able to achieve this or not. With 95˚ temperatures predicted for Saturday afternoon, during practice and qualifying – we’ll probably know the answer fairly quickly.

Speaking of aerodynamics, the aero screen has not been tested in race conditions. I think, at best, they have had a couple of cars following each other in testing to see what the trailing car would deal with. Computer modeling may show how they expect cars to react with the added weight and airflow disruption, but they won’t really know until tomorrow night when the twenty-four cars head into Turn One in anger. This could get interesting.

The added weight is expected to create more tire degradation, which is already a factor at Texas. Due to the lack of testing and the fact that Firestone’s manufacturing facility just returned to work this week – they are going with last year’s tire. Because of all of this, Firestone and IndyCar decided to implement a maximum thirty-five lap stint. I’m not a fan of mandated pit windows, but at least they are not going to go to a “competition yellow” like NASCAR. Unless there is already a caution period, these will be green-flag pit stops. Math is not my strong suit, but it will be interesting to see who plays this right and who doesn’t.

As with any season-opener, there will be a few new liveries in the field. Felix Rosenqvist will be racing the new NTT Data livery that has a lot of black in it with some blue trim. I can’t say I’m a fan of that one, but we’ll see how it looks on the track.

IMG_7852

Josef Newgarden will be unveiling a new white and yellow livery for a new sponsor. I can’t say much about this one either way. I might have preferred all-yellow with black trim, but that may have been too similar to the Pennzoil livery that I’m assuming Helio Castroneves will be running for the Indianapolis 500.

Newgarden

The livery I’m most excited about is what will be on the car of Tony Kanaan. He will be carrying sponsorship from 7-Eleven, and his livery will be practically identical to what he ran in his glory years with Andretti-Green Racing and later Andretti Autosport.

image

Kanaan carried 7-Eleven sponsorship from 2003 through the 2010 season. That car became Tony Kanaan in my mind. He won the 2004 IndyCar championship in that car and led many laps in the Indianapolis 500 in that familiar green and white car.

If you have NBC Sports Gold, you can park yourself in front of the TV for most of the day. I’ve been doing major household chores every weekend throughout the Month of May. I’m devoting Saturday to doing nothing except lounging around and watching racing.

The one and only practice starts at 1:00 pm EDT, with the first thirty minutes reserved for rookies and first-time Texas drivers. Then everyone takes the track at 1:30 EDT and will practice until 3:30 EDT. The full practice session will be shown on NBC Sports Gold. Then at 5:00 EDT, qualifying will be shown live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (no commercials) for one hour until 6:00 EDT. After a break for dinner, you can plop down on your favorite couch and watch the pre-race show on NBCSN from 7:30 to 8:00 EDT. Then at 8:00 EDT, flip over to watch the race on Big NBC. After the race broadcast is over after the race, you can switch back over to NBCSN and catch a thirty-minute post-race show.

It may be a one day event and have no fans present, but we couch potatoes will be able to gorge ourselves after starving for months. It’ll need to last, because the GMR Grand Prix will still be a month away, and we learned yesterday there will be no fans present there, either. Apparently, IMS could get no assurances from the Indianapolis mayor that the city would be up to Stage 5 in their re-opening process like the rest of the state by that weekend. For area restaurants and hotels that were counting on that boost to their already hurting bottom-lines, this will not be a popular move.

Another interesting storyline for this race will be the four Texas rookies in the field. Pato O’ Ward didn’t race at Texas last year, so he is technically a rookie – but he has a good bit of experience in an Indy car. Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay are true IndyCar rookies this year. Askew drove in five oval races last year in Indy Lights, and he won three of them. Alex Palou has never driven on an oval in his life.

Of course, all of the drivers are rusty. This has probably been the longest most of them have gone without turning a wheel in competition. I know that there was the open test at COTA in February, but that wasn’t a race. It probably won’t take more than a handful of laps for the veterans to get comfortable, but the rookies and inexperienced drivers may take longer to reach a comfort level.

For this reason, I think that this race will come down to one of the Big-Three teams (Andretti, Ganassi and Penske) and one of their veteran drivers. Josef Newgarden won this race last year, but Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta were both very strong – that is until Herta and Scott Dixon got together in Turns Three and Four.

I’m going with a veteran from one of those three teams, but probably not one you were thinking of – but it is someone that has a history of running very well at Texas (except for last year). He is someone who is very hungry to prove a lot of doubters wrong, and he needs to give his employer a reason to not take him out of the car anytime soon. I think that James Hinchcliffe is going to reward his new sponsor (Genesys) and his new/old team for bringing him back; by giving them a win tomorrow night at Texas. He is also scheduled to drive in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis in a month, but then he is out of the car for a while. If he gets off to a hot start and is leading the points after two races – you can’t take him out of the car. Can you? We’ll see.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “Texas Preview”

  1. They don’t really have to look around the centerpost. They have two eyes, one in either side of the post so the brain mostly edits the post out. Here’s a fun little test, hold your finger up between your eyes about a foot from your face and focus on the wall beyond it. You’ll see that not only is none of your vision blocked but after 10-15 seconds it all but disappears. What we saw in iracing from the cockpit view is nothing like real-life because they can’t recreate stereoscopic vision on a single monitor. Heat/airflow will likely be a real concern though but hopefully they all get through the night without overheating issues.

    Regardless, IT’S TIME TO GO RACING, FRIENDS!! 😃

  2. S0CSeven Says:

    Lastly, a great big THANK YOU to you George for 8-9 months of a thrice weekly blog when there was absolutely nothing to blog about.

    Much, much appreciated.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    I’m very excited to see the series finally getting underway, even as I am a bit sad to not be in attendance at Texas for the first time in well over a decade. Allowing the mandatory tire windows to come without caution was probably a good call, as it should allow the cars to stay somewhat spread out even as everyone regularly gets fresh tires. There will be no restarts with everyone on new rubber unless there is already a caution.

    I will be curious to see how aggressive the drivers are tomorrow night. Has the long layoff made them more cautious or more ambitious? I can see both things being true.

  4. if NASCAR provides a prediction, don’t miss the first lap.

  5. Ron Ford Says:

    Scott Dixon wins again. Book it. Rosenqvist very competitive and surprisingly so was Zach Veach..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: