What to watch for: IndyCar’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway


FORT WORTH – Here’s a look at what to look out for in the ninth round of IndyCar’s 2015 campaign, the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (8:50 p.m. ET, check local listings), the second oval race for the series following the Indianapolis 500 last month.

Texas-style falloff

They all have different terms for it. Ryan Briscoe: “skating around on eggs.” Stefano Coletti: “a roller coaster.” For Tony Kanaan, it’s simply “slippery.”

They’re the ways you can describe racing at 215 mph around the 1.5-mile TMS after your tires begin falling off after just two laps.

“I think it’a going to be pretty difficult,” Graham Rahal said. “I can feel it at the end of my second qualifying sim lap (in practice). I could feel my tires going of already.”

Rahal doesn’t believe anyone will be able to make it a full tire-stint under those conditions.

“We asked for this,” Rahal said. “We wanted this on the road courses and the ovals. It’s more in the driver’s hands and the teams’ to get it right, as compared to being in a pack and getting lucky.”

Rahal said this will lead to “a ton” of passing at track once known for pack racing (the kind of racing track president Eddie Gossage wants to get closer to after a dud in 2014). But don’t to expect the “life or death” moments of years past.

“I think some of the Chevy drivers said they felt like there would be pack racing here again,” Rahal said. “There’s just no chance. It is going to be tough (Saturday).”

Introduction to “No Limits” 101

Stefano Coletti had one thought when he turned his No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet into TMS’ 24-degree Turn 3 for the first time.

“Wow, this is banked.”

That’s the reaction of someone who has raced on only one other oval in his career, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Coletti will be making his first start at TMS Saturday night, starting dead last in the 23-car field.

“Indianapolis and Texas are completely different,” Coletti said after his qualifying attempt Friday. “Here it is pretty hard … it squishes you down like you are going up and down on a ride.”

Sage Karam, who has more extensive oval experience, is also being baptized by the 1.5-mile track, but much further forward in the field in 10th.

“When you go into Turn 3, you start turning in and it’s flat,” Karam said. “Then all of sudden you hit max bank and the thing just wants to rotate on it’s own and it gives you that weird sensation. It kind of caught me by surprise.

“I came in actually, two or three laps into the stint. I’m like, ‘Guys, is that normal to feel like that?’ They’re like, ‘yeah, absolutely.’ You just got to commit to this place.”

A Texas-sized microcosm

Through eight races in 2015, the Verizon IndyCar Series has seen six different teams win with seven drivers. TMS has had its own version of this parity over the last seven years.

In the last nine races in Fort Worth, eight different winners have visited Victory Lane. The only driver to have an encore performance has been Helio Castroneves (2009, ’13).

The top 10 on the starting grid includes six drivers who have yet to fire the six-shooters and wear the cowboy hat that say you won at Texas Motor Speedway.