What to watch for: IndyCar at Texas

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– Tire conservation could be key again. With a further tweak to the low-downforce aero package for Texas – drivers will have about 200 less pounds of downforce on their cars compared to last year’s race – they’ll need to keep looking after their Firestone Firehawks over the course of green-flag runs. Tonight’s race (8:30 pm ET, check local listings) will see new compounds from Firestone that are designed to add some grip and durability, but with this aero package, expect to see competitors going up and down the scoring pylon as their rubber gets more and more worn out.

– Anybody can win from anywhere. Justin Wilson won in Fort Worth last year from 17th starting position, which was the worst out of any IndyCar winner at the 1.5-mile oval. Texas also hasn’t had a dominant driver as of late, with seven different winners in the last seven races. And considering the stout level of competition from top-to-bottom in the series right now, it wouldn’t be surprising to see somebody else break out of the pack and put their own name in the TMS record books.

– Can small teams continue to shine? It’s been an enjoyably quirky season so far, as smaller outfits such as A.J. Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing have brought home first-place trophies while juggernauts Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing have not. Will we see another of these squads step up and take it to the big guys tonight? Word of advice: Keep an eye on Ed Carpenter, who starts ninth for the single-car outfit he also owns; as we said following his Indy 500 pole, he’s always a threat on the speedways.

– Revenge for “Team Target”? Last year’s race at Texas did not go very well for the TCGR duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Dixon crashed out despite having the best car, and Franchitti was never a factor as his own Honda was afflicted with severe handling issues. With a year to think about it, expect the two to have more of a say in the outcome of tonight’s race.