Once again the IndyCar Series returns to the Texas Motor Speedway. TMS is one of the few venues where the IndyCar series has had a sustained run of good attendance numbers that have been helped by lots of the NASCAR season ticket holders who have stopped selling or giving away their IndyCar tickets and started attending the race.
So far this year though, the most competitive oval race has been last week at Milwaukee. With TMS being a 1.5 mile cookie cutter track, it may be yet another dull oval race with hardly any passing at the front, if the racing at Kansas earlier this season was any indication of what we will see Saturday night.
But Texas has produced some exciting racing and some fantastic results in the past, and so far the practice times tell us that maybe we are in for a race that isn’t dominated by TCGR and Penske. Dan Wheldon lead the timesheet in last nights practice with a 215.783 mph. Certainly a remarkable result for the Panther team, now if they can translate that into a race setup. Danica was second on the timesheet with a 214.884, nearly a full 1 mph off of Wheldon’s time which calls into question whether he got a tow.
With 24 entries confirmed for this event, it will be the largest field we have seen yet this season outside of Indy. Joining the usual suspects this weekend will be Sarah Fisher in her Dollar General entry and Tomas Scheckter in a third D&R entry.
Conquest racing has had a hard time making it to events this season. They skipped Kansas saying they were preparing for Indy, then they skipped Milwaukee. If they don’t find secure funding soon, they may fall out of the IndyCar TEAM program which guarantees them a purse of 1.24 million dollars if they attend all of the races. Since they have missed two already, they have apparently been able to negotiate an agreement with the series that allows them to remain in the TEAM program for now. But I would think if they miss anymore races, they will lose the TEAM money and be done for the season. Apart from the TEAM program, one off entries receive a very small check for their participation in a race weekend (outside of Indy). But kudos to Conquest for getting Tags back in the car for his first appearance at Texas since CART canceled their event back in 2001.
Sarah Fisher will be competing this weekend. She has raced at Kansas and Indy this season and will also be making appearances at Chicago, Homestead & Kentucky. That is all the 1.5 mile ovals (except for the wopperjawed Motegi) along with the Brickyard.
Tomas Scheckter has managed to land a long term deal with D&R for most of the remaining races this season. Tomas’s Mona Vie sponsorship that he ran at Indy for Dale Coyne Racing has now moved to D&R. Tomas took Milka Duno’s place last weekend at Milwaukee and has now signed a deal which will see him compete in 9 of the remaining 12 races. Tomas had a nasty habit last season of prematurely ending the useful lifespan of halfshafts, which helped Luczo Dragon make the decision to give the seat to Matos this year. You can’t go much lower down the totem pole than being on the same team with Milka and Conway, but maybe having an actual experienced veteran on the team will help Conway improve.
After Paul Tracy’s poor showing with AJ at Milwaukee last weekend, PT has decided it would be better to not drive for AJ’s team anymore. That said, AJ has put IV into his car for this weekend. I can’t imagine the results will be much different from Milwaukee though.
Last on the list of driver changes this weekend is the curious case of Stanton Barrett. Barrett has been replaced by Buddy Lazier at Team 3G. Barrett failed to qualify at Indy and has failed to put up lap times that compare with even Milka Duno. It is a shame that things haven’t worked out for him, but I applaud 3G for hiring an American driver to take his place. 3G is saying that this is not a permanent driver change. We shall see.
Anyway, here are the results from practice last night:
|13||06||Doornbos, Robert (R)||212.958|
|14||14||Foyt IV, AJ||212.592|
|15||2||Matos, Raphael (R)||212.420|
|21||24||Conway, Mike (R)||211.656|
Note that Lazier has yet to take laps.
Qualifications will be shown on Versus today (6/5/09) at 7pm est.
Race will be shown on Versus Saturday night (6/6/09) at 9pm est.