Texas Preview

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If there is anything more depressing than taking down the Christmas tree after a month of anticipation; it’s realizing that the Month of May has come to a close for another year. Yes, we still have the memories and we can go back and relive the month by watching the recording of the race or listening to a podcast of Donald Davidson – but it’s not the same. We reluctantly realize that it’s time to put a period on the month, turn the page and move on. Fortunately, there is another race just six days after the Indianapolis 500.

Not only is it a race, it’s what used to be one of the most exciting of the season. I say, “used to be” because last year’s edition was a dud. In fact, the clunker at Texas last year is what opened everyone’s eyes that something was no longer right with the oval package of these cars. A few weeks later, after the yawner at Richmond – the powers that be finally put their heads together, listened to the fans and did something right. They changed the aero package in order to allow cars to run closer together and hopefully create more passing.

We had to wait until the first of August when the series ran at Kentucky to see if the changes worked. Did they ever? Ryan Briscoe inched ahead of Ed Carpenter just before the finish line; in what was one of the most exciting races I’ve seen in a while.

Even then, all I could think was that I couldn’t wait to see these changes implemented at Texas. That anticipation has been tempered somewhat, after the snooze-fest at Kansas this year. Once again, there was a single-file parade at Kansas, even with the new aero package – so now I’m only cautiously optimistic. But if we get what the Texas race used to be tomorrow night – we are in for quite a show.

I know one thing; it’s going to be hot in Texas tomorrow night – hotter than Indianapolis, and that’s saying a lot. It will still be daylight when the race begins, so there is a good chance the track will be very slippery at the first. The drivers will certainly be challenged trying to keep pace with the changing conditions of the track, but so will the engineers. That’s why I don’t expect a surprise winner to win this race tomorrow night. The top teams have the very best engineers, and that will make the difference in the race tomorrow.

But if I had to pick a non-Penske/Ganassi car, it would come from KV Racing Technologies. Any of their three drivers are capable of winning this race. EJ Viso and Mario Moraes are both capable of winning, if they can remain patient – which is probably easier said than done. Takuma Sato ran great at Kansas before he and his fellow countryman, Hideki Mutoh, collided in the closing laps. The reason I say this is because they have Bill Pappas, one of the best engineers out there and probably the best to be on a non-Penske or Ganassi car.

Another driver I’ll certainly be watching is Tomas Scheckter, who has been signed to replace Mike Conway at Texas. Conway is most likely sidelined for the remainder of the season, after his horrifying crash at Indianapolis last week. Scheckter won this race in 2005, giving Panther their last IZOD IndyCar Series victory to this point. Although Davey Hamilton is not currently a Scheckter fan, he can certainly be fun to watch – especially at a track like Texas Motor Speedway.

Several drivers will be driving at Texas for the first time in an IndyCar. Some of those include Alex Lloyd, Simona de Silvestro, both Conquest drivers, Takuma Sato and Jay Howard; which should make for some tense moments.

One driver was slated to make his first start in Texas in almost ten years. Davey Hamilton was scheduled to drive in the race tomorrow night, for the first time since a devastating crash mangled his feet at the very same track in 2001. Unfortunately, his team, de Ferran Dragon Racing, suffered quite a bit of carnage at the Indianapolis 500 last week; and they only have one car to run for their primary full-time driver, Rafa Matos. This team has been very disappointing since the start of the season and they need something good to happen to them. It won’t be this weekend.

Someone else needing something good to happen is Ryan Briscoe. I never fully heard what put him into the fence while coming out of turn four at Indianapolis, but it appeared to be the cold tires shortly after leaving the pits. If that’s the case, then chalk up another brain-fade for Ryan Briscoe. I really like Briscoe, but I’m afraid too many incidents like Sunday’s are starting to mount up. Ryan Briscoe is not having a good season, so far. He would have won last year’s championship, if not for a brain-fade at Motegi while leading. He inexplicably allowed the car to get away from him while leaving the pits, and he clouted the inside retaining wall. That set up an improbable scenario that allowed Dario Franchitti to sneak in and steal the championship away at Homestead in the season finale.

Although Curt Cavin said otherwise yesterday, I fear for Briscoe’s job security. I don’t ever recall Roger Penske making a mid-season change, and he probably won’t this year either. But unless Ryan Briscoe picks up the pace and stops wrecking cars, there is no telling what the future holds for him after the season is over. He should have won this race last year, except for Helio’s preferred pit placement. He had the field covered until that final pit stop. If Briscoe wants to turn his fortunes around, tomorrow night will be a timely place to start.

I still don’t know what to think about the Andretti Autosport cars. After a horrendous Month of May, they redeemed themselves on Race Day. Can they keep the momentum from Indianapolis going, or will they revert to their old ways? We’ll have a good idea by tonight after they have qualified.

So who is my pick for Texas? I hate to do this to him, but I’m going with the only Penske/Ganassi driver to not win yet this season – Ryan Briscoe. He needs it.

George Phillips

Please note – I’m sliding back into my post-Indy mode. There will be no post Saturday morning. I’ll post a race recap late Saturday night, then I’ll take a couple of days off and not post again until Wednesday June 9. -GP

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10 Responses to “Texas Preview”

  1. I wonder if Ryan Briscoe is having a bit of a “Damon Hill ’95 year”?

    In ’94, Hill lost the F1 title to Schumacher by a single point, but in ’95 he was so desperate to make amends, he ended up crashing a number of times and making lots of unforced errors – although his seat was secure at Williams for ’96, he had already been replaced for ’97. Briscoe may need to watch to be sure he doesn’t fall into the same trap…

    …however, the title race is still close enough for Briscoe to play himself in. A good day for Briscoe, if the others aren’t quite there could make all the difference.

  2. I’m going to go with Briscoe this week as well. In the past he’s run well here, and at Chicagoland and after his brain fade at Indy, he needs the win to restore the team’s confidence in him. In 2008 he rebounded from his pit road incident at Indy to win the next race at Milwaukee. I’ll say he does the same here.

    As for KV Racing, I know that their drivers are bringing money with them, but at what point does the repeated crash damage begin to outweigh the $$$ they bring to the team? Between Moraes, Viso and Sato they have 8 wrecks so far this year, (not including practice, or qualifying crashes) and we aren’t quite to the halfway point. These guys are single handedly keeping Dallara in business.

  3. Dax Cox Says:

    Mario Moraes and EJ Viso wouldn’t win a race if there were only 5 cars in it.

    If they don’t mash another car up, it will be a victory for them. KV is getting exactly what they deserve. They took on 3 crash-prone psycho’s who have no business in this series, and are spending more time reparing their cars then actually building their team.

    Wheldon will be bad fast and will have a chance to win this week. Book it. It will still be a Ganassi/Penske parade at the front, but I think Dan will be the guy to ruffle their feathers a bit.

    Scheckter will never be heard from. Not sure why folks think this guy still is some top talent and is always going to go to the front. He may start towards the front, but he’ll fade back like usual. And the team he is with is a midpack group. As usual with Tomas, a lot more bluster then actual result.

    For me, I am secretly hoping Hunter-Reay either wins or runs in the top 5. That would make his final race with AA, very memorable and would be another kick in the nuts to this sport. I wonder how many more “kicks” these people will take before somebody opens their eyes and realizes how dire things are. Maybe it will take a top 5 in points American driver losing his ride, to make some real changes and get some owners and leaders to wake the eff up.

    • You guys said it all! I concur. I cannot add anything! I don’t see Scheckter, Bell and Moraes winning any races but crashing, crashing, crashing. Heck, show me these guys on podiums. Never liked Scheckter or Bell. Don’t like ride-buyers who can’t win.

      Though Briscoe Inferno ought to win a spate of races or a championship or an Indy 500 to keep his job, I would LOVE to see the OTHER young Ryan win and garner sponsorship for the remainder of this season. Or Tagliani. Wanted to see Hamilton race…
      A Ganassi or Penske racer will likely win…

  4. You know something’s upside down when Milka is #17 in a 26 car field.

  5. Whanica qualified seventh?! Far ahead of Tony, RH-R and Wheldon? WTF?!
    How did Duno qualify ahead of speedy Scheckter, Meira, Tagliani, & RH-R?! I didn’t watch qualifying on Versus, as I was at work.

  6. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Slamica will have lost 4-5 positions after the first two laps… Dont place so much emphasis on qualifying at Texas, and never count out TK…. Look for Weldon and TK to be banging wheels at some point….

    • Brian McKay Says:

      Well,… naysayers like me are shut up by Danica tonight. Kudos to her and her expert team – and to Marco Andretti and his team. Andretti Autosport put two racers on the podium tonight. Shame about Hunter-Reay’s pit lane snafu.

  7. Brian McKay Says:

    oh, my gosh – during the interview with Marco, Versus showed a replay of a pit stop in which the 26 car’s right rear wheel FELL OFF as Marco began to drive away! HOW did he finish second after that foul-up?

    – FAR too many mistakes in pit lane at Indy and Fort Worth
    – I’m glad Tag’s fueler wasn’t horribly injured
    – I’m glad that Simona’s not horribly injured and is upbeat as always. That’s the type of racer that I like to follow – chin-up, positive, and enthusiastic, not grousing about others or circumstances… I like Katherine Legge, also.
    reminds me- Sarah Fisher and Vitor Meira got far too little air time tonight.

    • Leigh O'Gorman Says:

      Good race I thought and a very good drive by Briscoe; Danica and Marco were excellent too. However, the safety crew following de Silvestro’s fire need to seriously look at themselves – slow and unresponsive is not an option if people’s safety is at risk.

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