IndyCar Series' new car slower, but safer

The IndyCar Series' new car is slower in testing at Texas Motor Speedway than its old car was in qualifying.

But that's fine with the Series.

IndyCar will take slower speeds on high-banked ovals like TMS if it means less "pack racing," the kind where contact between the open-wheel vehicles can result in catastrophe.

"So far it feels pretty good, pretty solid," said series leader Will Power, one of 10 drivers who tested Monday at TMS. "It's similar to last year's car. But we'll try to run in some groups, see how this car behaves in a pack."

Last year at Las Vegas' high-banked oval, contact in a pack of cars traveling more than 220 mph resulted in the death of driver Dan Wheldon. His car went airborne and into the fence after it came up on the multiple-car crash.

"What we're trying to do is ensure it's not a pack race like it was in the past and like it was in Vegas," Power said. "So what the series has done is take out a lot of downforce. The most you can run is about what we ran in qualifying last year. So we'll see when a group of cars runs together how close we can run and how long we can run."

Power ran a top speed of 208.001 mph in the first practice. Scott Dixon had the practice's top speed, 212.371, that is a touch below the 214-215 mph range that the pole sitter usually records at Texas.

"For me, I was fine," Power said. "I felt right at home."

The IndyCar series had been working on a safer design -- reinforcing the cockpit, adding fenders and wheel guards -- even before the Wheldon accident. It debuted the car this season, but it has run only on road and street courses so far.

The next race in the series is the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, and in June, the series comes to Fort Worth for the Firestone 550, which will be the first race on a 1.5-mile oval since the Wheldon accident.

"As long as we come to these places and everybody gets together as a group and understands how to create separation, the racing has been pretty good here," Dixon said.

Four of the next five races are on ovals, but there are only five ovals on the 16-race calendar.

"We don't have as many ovals as we used to, so the precautions have happened already," driver Helio Castroneves said. "The entire community of the IndyCar series has been together, spent time, thinking properly, so we can attack the ovals the way it used to be in the past, and safe for us, and have a great race for the fans as well. Right now, it's a big question mark."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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