Random Thoughts on Texas

My first-ever trip to Texas Motor Speedway was a rousing success. It was an impressive facility that produced a fantastic race. If you’ve never been, like me, I would highly recommend going. Josef Newgarden won the race for the second year in a row – both in rather dramatic fashion. Last year, he passed teammate Scott McLaughlin at the line. This year it was a late caution that sealed the victory as Newgarden was in a tight battle with Pato O’Ward for the lead.

While in Texas, I also sampled some excellent Texas BBQ at Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ in the Ft. Worth Stockyards. Sunday night after the race, we went to La Hacienda for Tex-Mex. I can’t wait to get on the scales Monday night when I return to Nashville.

While I was watching the race situated behind the pit of Romain Grosjean, I could see almost half the track. I was wondering if the race seemed as exciting on TV as it did in person. From what I’ve seen on social media, the answer is a resounding yes, although there were a few stray comments from those that were fearful that the race was starting to resemble pack racing. I sometimes wonder why these people even follow racing.

There were twenty-seven changes for the lead among eight drivers. That was just for the lead. There were 482 passes for position in yesterday’s race. I believe it. When you are there in person, you can see all kinds of passing that never shows up on TV.

I have been to more than a few tracks and quite a few races in person. For any race that was not the Indianapolis 500, I can honestly say that yesterday’s race was the best race I have ever been to.

TV Coverage: As I type in our hotel room on Sunday night, we are watching the replay. It is still early, but I’ve already heard they are still doing one thing that I don’t like – the dreaded booth-to-car interview during the Parade Laps. These things tell us nothing, but they are very awkward. These were cutting edge in the 70s and 80s, but not so much today. There is no need for them and they should stop.

There were only two pit reporters; Marty Snider and Dave Burns. Kevin Lee told us on Trackside that he would not be making the trip this weekend. I like Dave Burns OK, but I’m not really a Marty Snider fan.

What little I’ve heard from the broadcast, it seems like the booth guys were all on their game.

Out to Lunch: What is the world was going on with the Rahal cars? Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey qualified twenty-fourth, twenty-seventh and twenty-eight respectively. Harvey and Lundgaard finished eighteenth and nineteenth respectively, but Rahal was taken out at Texas for the second year in a row by Devlin DeFrancesco. To be honest, I think he did Rahal a favor. Rahal finished twenty-fourth. My question is, how did the cars of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLLR) missed the setup as much as they did?

Pleasant Surprises: While the Rahal cars were struggling, there were several cars that came prepared for the high-speed banks of Texas. The fledgling team from Juncos Hollinger Racing defied all expectations. Callum Ilott continues to impress as we are witnessing his weekly progression. Ilott started seventeenth and finished ninth. Would it surprise you if I told you that Ilott is currently seventh in points after two races? Perhaps the bigger surprise came from his rookie teammate Augustin Canapino, who drove on his first career oval ever yesterday. Canapino started nineteenth and finished twelfth.

David Malukas continues to turn heads. He qualified his Dale Coyne car in ninth and finished fourth. Malukas was one of the cars running in the lead pack at the end with far more experienced drivers, but he hung with them and finished a very respectable fourth. Malukas currently sits in sixth in the standings.

Benjamin Pedersen is another rookie and is driving for AJ Foyt Enterprises. He surprised everyone with a thirteenth-place qualifying effort, but he held his own and finished fifteenth.

Pit Debate: I have seen the pit collision between Alexander Rossi and Kyle Kirkwood. Until someone can explain things to me, I agree with Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe. It seems to me that Kirkwood veered over at the last minute from the fast lane. If he was pitting, Kirkwood should have been in the transition lane. Rossi’s crew had no idea that Kirkwood was pitting. Of course, Rossi was the one that was penealized.

The Crowd: I had been told all weekend that the crowd was going to set a record low for a Texas IndyCar race. I’ve never been good at judging crowds by looking at them, but I thought the crowd looked bigger than last year’s. Many people I spoke with that also went to last year’s race, said that this year was an increase over last year. I hope so. I want this race to continue to work, because I want to go back next year.

All in All: By now, you can probably tell that I really liked yesterday’s race. I did. But I also like Texas Motor Speedway. It is laid out well, and I never looked at something wondering why they did it the way they did. It was a great facility and a great race. I want to go back and I think if you have not been to Texas, you owe it to yourself to go and experience it.

My wife Susan did not make the trip, but mainly because this was already planned as a guy’s trip. Most know that Susan does most of the photography on this site. With her not here, I relied on my fellow traveler, Paul Dalbey, to supply some photos to me. I will close posting more of those, in addition to the ones he gave me yesterday. Thanks to all who followed along this weekend. It was a great race and a great weekend.

George Phillips

DalyPhoto by Paul Dalbey

GrosjeanPhoto by Paul Dalbey

HelioPhoto by Paul Dalbey

J. RutherfordPhoto by Paul Dalbey

BolesPhoto by Paul Dalbey

DixonPhoto by Paul Dalbey

MSRPhoto by Paul Dalbey

PatoPhoto by Paul Dalbey

MilesPhoto by Paul Dalbey

PacePhoto by Paul Dalbey

Power2Photo by Paul Dalbey

LatePhoto by Paul Dalbey

StraightPhoto by Paul Dalbey

PitsPhoto by Paul Dalbey

Victory LanePhoto by Paul Dalbey

PalouPhoto by Paul Dalbey

11 Responses to “Random Thoughts on Texas”

  1. Thanks to you and Paul for all the updates this weekend! It’s much appreciated! What was up with Conor and crew anyways? Just didn’t seem to be all there.

  2. OliverW Says:

    Plan to come over for next years race.

  3. Brandon Wright Says:

    About the Kirkwood pit incident, I tend to agree but when they were showing him the replay he said he couldn’t get over and sure enough a car released from a pit stall and entered the inside lane so Kirkwood couldn’t turn into his pits until he was almost to them. So that makes it a little harder to blame him, but also Rossi’s guys couldn’t have known Kirkwood was about to cut in because he was in the outside lane so I don’t think they should have been penalized (not that it mattered since he was already many laps down).

  4. S0CSeven Says:

    More on the Kirkwood incident …
    When you watch the race, every single driver entered his pit directly from the fast lane – no exceptions.

    It sounded like the broadcast crew were the only ones who didn’t know the rule.

    • billytheskink Says:

      It has been that way for several years too.

      I’m surprised Hinch did not know the rule, as he has driven in this exact race within the last few years. Bell not knowing doesn’t surprise me, he is not a bad analyst generally, but he was never known as a particularly smart or contact-averse driver on track and his reaction to certain incidents will show that.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the race, George. Texas is a tremendous place to watch Indycars, especially when they put on a good show like they did yesterday. This race was the first time I had been able to experience the new grandstand renovations too (standing room bar open to the concourse, replacement of every other row of seats with tables and leg room). Removing seats is, of course, not a positive thing for a race track in most ways, but unlike most tracks that remove seats, Texas opted to reuse their grandstand space rather than tear stands down, adding leg room and tables in front of many seats and opening up the concourse under the grandstands to the track.

    The Rahal team was a mess in qualifying last year as well, but the cars were generally competitive in race trim then. Not so this year. Hey, Jack Harvey finally finished at the top of the RLL podium!

    I was glad the race still came down to O’Ward and Newgarden despite the late cautions bunching the field up, as they were the class of the field all day. O’Ward was far and away the most popular driver at the race, the small army of fans clad in papaya Arrow crew shirts reminiscent of the throngs of crew shirt-wearing fans that Adrian Fernandez used to draw. And I saw more than a few fans clad in Sergio Perez shirts in line at O’Ward’s merchandise tent.

    I also agree the crow was up over last year, though not at any level worth bragging about. My “count the number of fans in an ‘average’ section and apply it to all open sections” method put around 10,000 in stands (about twice what the Truck race drew) and one would have to add suites, camping, and people on the concourse to that. Perhaps a few thousand folks more than last year. The track was encouraging fans to renew their tickets to the race, which has not always happened in the past. The track and Indycar did announce a “multi-year” deal back in September.

  6. Dante’ Says:

    I, too, found the Rahal cars frustrating, but I do expect everything to be up to snuff when Indy rolls around.

  7. Thank you George for the updates all weekend. What a race! Yes, it was a little pack-y-reminiscent, but hell….what’s the point of racing there if you don’t have some element of that? I mean, if people think it’s too risky, then switch it out for another road course. Otherwise, let the guys race on the edge like they did yesterday. It’s been years since an IndyCar race put me on the edge of my seat like this one did!

  8. You know, I get torn to shreds when I mention on social media how dumb the radio interview thing is. the thing rarely works and if it does it’s usually garbled. It’s 2023 and the technology is that bad! Thank you George for saying that, I felt all alone in that opinion!

    The race was phenomenal. Glad you enjoyed it from your seat too.

  9. I thought this was an extremely exciting race. I was hoping Pato would pull of the win. I may have to add Texas to my list of venues. Thanks for your coverage this weekend, George.

  10. Were there no women at Texas Motor Speedway? All your photos of men. Need to include the ladies if you want to make Indycar sexy again?

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