Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage wanted to send a simple message to IndyCar with the open-wheel circuit returning to town this week.
“We need a more competitive race than we had last year,” Gossage said.
The racing has slipped the past couple of years at Texas, featuring mostly single-file racing without close finishes.
A year ago, Ed Carpenter led 66 of the final 67 laps and had more than an 18-second lead with seven laps remaining before a late caution. He then held off charges from Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power to take the checkered flag.
In 2013, Helio Castroneves led the final 132 laps and won the race easily with a 4.6919-second margin.
Gossage, never shy of voicing his opinion, sent a friendly reminder of this to Derrick Walker, IndyCar’s president of competition and operation.
“If you remember, Derrick is the one who said it wasn’t the best race we’ve ever seen,” Gossage said. “He was honest about that. It wasn’t a very good race last year.
“That has to do with aerodynamics that I can’t change. I’d be happy to if they let me, so it’s on them to fix it. I have great faith that they will.”
Among other storylines to follow this race weekend:
New aero kits
They were all the rage going into the IndyCar season, but have come with plenty of questions. Three airborne crashes and another that sent James Hinchcliffe to the hospital leading into the Indy 500 were worrisome for the new superspeedway aero kits, and Texas should see the drivers run a similar package of modifications to a car’s aerodynamic bodywork.
“I’m sure they’re trying to figure out what the best fix is for us,” Gossage said. “Speeds are going to be just a little slower than Indy, but not much, so I’m sure they’re focusing on us. Derrick’s a good guy. He wants to get it right, and I believe it will be right.”
TMS did hold closed testing sessions for the new aero kits before the season started with Carpenter and Castroneves.
Reigning Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya said he talked with his teammate, Castroneves, about the testing session at Texas, but it’s too difficult to know how it’ll translate.
As Montoya said, “The problem when you test here, it’s cold. Then you come back for the race and it’s hot, so you’re like, ‘What the hell happened here?’”
The IndyCar series has generated plenty of buzz of late with a thrilling Indy 500 that saw Montoya take the checkered flag for a second time. More important, that race generated a better national TV rating than the NASCAR night race for the first time since 2005.
Because of that surge, Gossage said, Saturday’s Firestone 600 will be shown on NBCSN instead of CNBC, where it had originally been slated.
That’s a tangible sign that IndyCar is gaining more interest than it has in recent years.
Don’t forget the trucks
The other highlight to the weekend is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, a circuit that features the next wave of great drivers. Essentially, it serves as NASCAR’s minor league system.
Erik Jones, who turned 19 on Saturday, is a promising driver looking for his first truck win of the season. Tyler Reddick, another 19-year-old, just earned his second win of the season Friday night at Dover.
Of course, the series has its veterans as well. Matt Crafton has won back-to-back championships, and already has two wins again.
TMS continues to create new concession stand goodies, and is unveiling its latest addition this weekend.
Fans will have the opportunity to buy what the track’s calling a “loaded hawg dawg.”
It’s a footlong sandwich with slow-roasted pulled pork with bacon and topped with bacon queso, jalapenos and two mozzarella sticks.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760