The Summer Years: 2001-2006
The first IZOD IndyCar Series race at the Kansas Speedway was held on July 8th, 2001. Those of you in the Midwest already know that no July 8th, surrounded by tarmac and concrete, it will be oppressively hot, and so it was for the first six races. Summertime in the Midwestern states, and especially in the central plains are brutal for both their high temperatures and high humidities. These conditions would challenge and tax both drivers and fans, but these years also produced some of the best action of any venue on the schedule! That first race was won by Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever, Jr. who edged out Sam Hornish, Jr. by only 0.1976 sec!
The IZOD IndyCar Series did a wonderful favor for all of us race fans and released the FULL LENGTH broadcast of the inaugural race at the Kansas Speedway. Enjoy!
That first close race was a sign of what was to follow. The race at Kansas often saw cars running wheel-to-wheel around the 1.5-mile D-oval. The 2nd most exciting finish to a race at the Kansas Speedway was the final 15 laps of the race in 2004.
As good as that was, race fans would be treated to an even more exciting finish during the 2005 race as Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, and Vitor Meira cross the finish line three-wide with Kanaan just edging Wheldon by a mere 0.012 sec! How about that for close racing! Vitor was fighting so hard for that win, that he ran across the start/finish line down on the apron of the track!
2006 was the last year that the IndyCars would race in the summer heat at Kansas Speedway, but the venue continued to demonstrate an ability to produced amazing races. That year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Sam Hornish, Jr., would best Dan Wheldon by little more than a car length in what was an exciting race. However, the oppressive heat and humidity of the Kansas summers finally was too much for the league and for 2007 the event would be moved to late April as the lead-in event for the Indianapolis 500 Mile race. This would seem to be a good move both for the league and for the Kansas Speedway.
Later today, we’ll look at the Spring Years, 2007-2009, and take a close look at last year’s race. For those of you who sat through last year’s race, remember that the aero rules are different now! We might still have some wind to fight, though. It is Kansas after all.