IndyCar – Texas! Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

Everything is bigger in Texas, even the racing! The IZOD IndyCar Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway has historically been an exciting event with close side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel racing. Last year was a disappointment as we saw a procession with exception of Briscoe who darn near lapped the entire field until a caution for “debris” obliterated the huge lead he’d built. This year, however, the close racing was back! As you may remember, the league made mid-season changes to the oval aero rules, allowing the teams to use some devices they’d had access to in previous seasons but were later banned. After these changes were made, the next oval race at the Kentucky Speedway was one of the most exciting races in recent seasons with Ed Carpenter darn near beating Briscoe’s Penske car! This year’s race at Texas continued that trend of high-excitement, high-speed, high-stakes racing.

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Early in the race, it looked as though the Penske/Ganassi group was going to lock out P1-P5 as they comprised the lead pack for most of the first stint. There was good action between them, but they were certainly the ones with early speed.

Dale Coyne Racing pilot Alex Lloyd had a career race running most of the evening near the front of the grid. Alex qualified in 6th which is a HUGE step forward for the very small, very low-budget operation. Unfortunately, Alex came into his pit a bit sideways during his first stop and ended up at the tail end of the lead lap. He clawed his way back to the top ten by mid race and eventually finished in eighth. When asked about the improvements, Alex attributed their forward progress to the additional track time at Indianapolis. The extra testing opportunities allowed the team to shake out the car more than they’d been able to at Kansas where practice was extremely limited and make big strides in their set-up. Look for Alex to be in the top ten again in Iowa.

The Andretti Autosport crew had a great race result in Texas once the Sun went down. The hot conditions during qualifying and practice caused some to miss the mark on set-up, but the Andretti crew nailed it.

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Their qualifying efforts were alright, with Patrick, Kanaan, and Andretti slotting in P7, P9, and P11, respectively. Ryan Hunter-Reay had a horrible qualifying run and started in P24. Ryan would quickly recover from his poor starting position and all four AA cars would end the race in the top ten. The best performance of all was from Danica Patrick who during the last couple of stints was battling the Penske and Ganassi cars at the very front. In the closing laps, Danica would pass Briscoe for the lead only to have Briscoe repass on a slingshot move out of T4. Post-race, Briscoe commented that if his repass attempt had not been successful, he might not have had enough speed to catch Patrick again. It was certainly an exciting battle to watch. Patrick eventually finished in P2, having one of the best drives of her career, Marco finished right behind her in P3. Kanaan improved to P6 and RHR gets the “most-improved” award finishing in P7.

There were a few incidents during the race, Takuma found the wall outside T2 (again), and Mario Moraes moved up-track and into Helio Castroneves on the front stretch taking both drivers out of the race. Immediately after his car came to a halt, Helio jump from his car and ran over to his competitor and was talking very animatedly. We couldn’t hear what he was saying, but we’re pretty sure he was just checking that his friend was alright. We’re sure that’s what it was. The scariest moment of the night was the horrific-looking incident when Simona di Silvestro struck the outside wall coming out of T2. When she hit the wall, an oil line ruptured and the car caught fire burning all down the back stretch through T3 and finally coming to a rest inside of T4 still on fire. The IZOD IndyCar Series safety crew is among the absolute best in the business and are almost always lightning quick in their response to any situation. This time, though, there was a problem. The fire hose on the front of the safety truck became stuck and it was several seconds before the crew could put out the flaming car. Meanwhile, Simona remained stuck in her car! One crew member reached into the burning car, freeing and lifting Simona out. Fortunately the crew member and Simona only suffered minor burns. The situation certainly could have been a lot worse.

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