IndyCar's Tony Kanaan stops for a TMS memento
It’s a never-ending endeavor for Texas Motor Speedway to attract more fans every race weekend. This weekend is no different.
Sure, the track is pumping up Friday’s truck race and Saturday’s IndyCar race as much as possible, but it’s added an “off-road ruckus” that is generating a much-needed buzz.
Fans who purchase tickets for the race weekend will be greeted with Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks doing multiple jumps on a makeshift dirt track in the infield that also includes a stretch along pit road and the frontstretch.
The mega trucks will have a practice session from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Friday, and then have qualifying before the IndyCar race on Saturday with the actual race beginning 30 minutes after the IndyCar race concludes.
And, boy, the SST race will be a sight to see.
The 2,900-pound trucks can go as fast as 140 mph and fly more than 20 feet in the air, and the TMS course features multiple jumps including one over the wall separating the racing surface to the infield. There’s also an over-under jump in which trucks will get almost 25 feet in the air.
Yours truly got a firsthand experience in a truck on Wednesday and the course is as good as advertised. Going from pit road to the front stretch will have the trucks on two wheels, and there is almost a 90-degree turn that will test the drivers’ handling abilities going from the infield onto pit road.
The series was introduced in 2013 by former NASCAR and IndyCar driver Robby Gordon, and has gained in popularity since.
“We’ve run the X Games down at the Formula 1 track [Circuit of the Americas] in Austin, but this is our first time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Gordon said. “Looking forward to coming out here. This is a great course for us. We’ve got one of our signature, gnarly crossover jumps — a huge gap of about 100 feet. It should be fun.”
Additionally, there will be an off-road expo in the infield inside of Turn 2 where fans can do everything from running their own off-road vehicle on an obstacle course (if the vehicle passes TMS’ inspection) to enjoying various off-road exhibits.
“I think we’re going to see something big out of this and it’s a real bonus for fans because it doesn’t cost them a penny more,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “We’re going to have a couple courses set up for them to run their own vehicles on and then just a huge off-road trade show with all kinds of aftermarket vendors.”
Along with Gordon, other drivers in the series include Matt Brabham, the grandson of three-time Formula One world champion Jack Brabham, and Arie Luyendyk Jr., the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk.
Gossage sees this as an avenue for TMS to broaden its fan base. Open-wheel fans may not necessarily be off-road fans and vice versa, but this weekend may convert each of them into attending more races in the future.
Gossage experienced the SST truck experience himself and raved about it afterward. He’s done plenty of ride-alongs in his career, and he hasn’t seen anything quite like this event. He mentioned it being a possible series that could return for years to come.
“We’re trying to capitalize on every opportunity that is presented to us,” Gossage said.