Texas Motor Speedway

Helio Castroneves on TMS’ new surface: Like driving over carpet

IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves compared the ease of driving on Texas Motor Speedway’s new racing surface to driving over a carpet.
IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves compared the ease of driving on Texas Motor Speedway’s new racing surface to driving over a carpet. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Helio Castroneves described Texas Motor Speedway’s new racing surface like driving over a carpet. That’s how smooth the surface remains after the track’s capital project to repave and re-profile the track earlier this year.

And that’s a good thing in the mind of Castroneves, who has won more open-wheel races at Texas (4) than any other driver.

“Since the track is so much more smooth, I think it will be a fun race for everyone,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet.

Castroneves was among the group of 21 full-season cars, as well as the Indianapolis 500 entry for Gabby Chaves, who went through a daylong test on Wednesday. All of the reviews were positive and the drivers are optimistic about when they race for real in June.

IndyCar stated that the primary objective of the test would be to establish the best aerodynamic packages for its cars. They had two three-hour sessions throughout the day.

The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 is scheduled for June 10.

“It’s a different layout for sure,” said Simon Pagenaud, who finished fourth in last year’s race. “The exit off Turn 2 is different, so it definitely helps I believe side-by-side racing. It’s just about us understanding how to make the tires work as best as possible.”

Along with the new asphalt, TMS re-configured the track by lowering the banking in Turns 1 and 2 from 24 degrees to 20 degrees and widening the racing surface in that area from 60 feet to 80 feet.

TMS underwent this project after every race weekend a year ago was dampened by Mother Nature. The IndyCar race had to be delayed more than two months because the track couldn’t dry in a timely fashion.

But, when it resumed in August, the racing couldn’t have been better. Graham Rahal won the closest race in TMS history, edging out James Hinchcliffe by 0.0080 of a second.

The June portion of the race, though, had a scary accident involving Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly. Newgarden had to be airlifted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas where he was treated for a broken right clavicle and small fracture in his right hand.

Newgarden ran laps at TMS for the first time since that accident during the testing session.

“It’s great to be back,” Newgarden said. “I haven’t really thought about [the accident] much to be honest with you. Missed the race, which sucked. But it’s great to be back. I love this track, so I’m excited to run here again.”

Alonso buzz

Every IndyCar driver praised the announcement of Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to compete in next month’s Indianapolis 500.

Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 world champion in F1, will drive for the Honda-powered Andretti team.

“It’s great news, great for IndyCar,” said Will Power, who has yet to win an Indy 500 in his career. “Pretty stoked to hear that. It’ll get a lot of attention to the series and the 500.”

Added Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champ: “Big news for the Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s massive. Kudos to Alonso for taking on the challenge. Very, very exciting news.”

Rainguard Water Sealers 600

June 10, 7 p.m.., Texas Motor Speedway

Tickets: texasmotorspeedway.com or 817-215-8500.

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