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INDYCAR Preview – DXC Technology 600

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As hard as it is to believe, the Verizon IndyCar Series is about to enter the second half of the 2018 season. And the back half of 2018 kicks off with the annual visit to the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway for the DXC Technology 600.

Last year’s Texas outing was a demolition derby of sorts. Nine cautions were flown, seven of which were for on-track incidents, and only six cars ended the race without any damage – seventh and eighth place finishers Conor Daly and Max Chilton were running at the end, but suffered damage in a late crash with Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato. Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand were also running at the end, but several laps down after getting caught up in a Lap 152 crash.

Texas always has a habit of being the most frantic and frenetic event of the year, and some are thankful it is the only high-banked 1.5-mile oval remaining on the schedule.

Talking points ahead of Saturday night’s 600-kilometer outing in Texas are below.

High-Speed Oval Gives Chevrolet a Chance to Bounce Back

The 2018 universal aero kits mean that the manufacturer battle between Honda and Chevrolet is entirely down to engine performance. And the race winners for each indicate a pretty even fight – Honda and Chevy have four winners apiece.

However, Honda currently holds a fairly decisive advantage – 103 points to be exact – in the manufacturer’s championship. This is in thanks to races like the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where Honda swept the top six, and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where they had five of the top six, and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, where they also had five of the six (though Chevy driver Josef Newgarden won that day).

Some are of the belief that Honda has a little better torque, and point to last weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit as evidence of that advantage. Hondas swept the top six in Saturday’s Race 1, and had five of the top six in Race 2, with race winners Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay completing a dominant weekend for the Japanese manufacturer.

Yet, Chevy appeared to have a top-end speed advantage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, evidenced by seven of the top nine qualifiers coming from the Chevy camp, and 150 of the 200 laps were led by Chevy drivers – Will Power and Ed Carpenter also completed a Chevy 1-2.

If such an advantage exists, Texas presents the Chevy teams with a golden opportunity to rebound from Honda’s domination of them in Detroit.

Will Texas Be a Pack Race, or Will Indy-Style Handling Be the Priority?

Last year’s carnage-filled night in Texas was in part a product of a pack race that saw the 22-car field unable to effectively gap each other. Hence, the close quarters caused a number of accidents, and when a crash happened – such as the contact between James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan that sparked the Lap 152 crash – it left drivers with little time to react.

If the Indianapolis 500 was any indication, however, a pack race may not be likely, as handling was paramount that day, especially because of the conditions – the Indy 500 saw a near-record high ambient temperature of 91 degrees.

And Texas figures to be another scorcher, with the predicted highs nearing 100 degrees.

As such, the effect of the aero kits is a complete unknown ahead of the weekend. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal discussed as much, asserting that the package’s performance in Texas may not necessarily have much in common with its performance in Indy.

“I think the new aero kit is going to behave quite differently than it did at Indy, but I also think that when we show up it’s going to be a real work in progress,” Rahal explained. “I’m sure that from an aerodynamic perspective, INDYCAR is going to have to keep doing some work to get it right. If you look at the way the aero package is set up currently, I think that it’s going to be very difficult to run together but I did not test there so I’m not a great judge of that because I haven’t had any laps there yet. But I definitely think it’s going to be a work in progress and the folks at INDYCAR are ready, willing and able to adjust if we need to, to make the show great.”

Between 2012 and 2015, Texas did not produce pack racing, but rather put a premium on mechanical grip and managing tire wear – this was a result of the DW-12 and manufacturer aero kit packages. Though the 2016 and 2017 outings saw pack-racing return, it stands within reason to think that mechanical grip and tire wear will again be the priorities this time around.

Misc.

  • Zachary Claman De Melo returns to the No. 19 Paysafe Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, and this will be his first ever start at Texas Motor Speedway – the Firestone Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship does not run at Texas.
  • Masked by last year’s race of carnage was a dominant performance by Team Penske’s Will Power, who led 180 of 248 laps. Given his recent prowess on ovals, the 2018 Indy 500 winner may enter Texas as the man to beat.
  • Detroit winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon look to reverse a recent run of misfortune at Texas. Dixon won in 2015, but has been crashed out in the last two Texas races – in 2016 and 2017. Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, has not finished in the top 10 at Texas since a second-place effort in 2013. Both have the speed to reverse such fortune, and if luck is on their side, they’ll be contenders on Saturday night.

The Final Word…

From defending race winner, Will Power:

“I’m really looking forward to going back to Texas. The team has really been on a roll with a lot of success in the past month and we are ready to keep doing that. The No. 12 Verizon Chevy team brought home a win last year at Texas and we feel strongly that we have another good shot at it. The fans are always a lot of fun there and really seem to enjoy the type of racing we get to do there. I’m really excited to go back there.”

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule:

At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, June 8
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (12:30 to 2:00 p.m. ET): Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)
3:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. ET): Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single car/cumulative time of two laps), Live on NBCSN
6:15. – 7:15 p.m. (7:15 to 8:15 p.m. ET): Verizon IndyCar Series final practice, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)

Saturday, June 9
7:00p.m. (8:00 p.m. ET) – NBCSN broadcast window begins
7:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m. ET) – DXC Technology 600 (248 laps/357.12 miles), NBCSN (Live)

Here’s last year’s top 10: 

1. Will Power
2. Tony Kanaan
3. Simon Pagenaud
4. Graham Rahal
5. Gabby Chaves
6. Marco Andretti
7. Conor Daly
8. Max Chilton
9. Scott Dixon
10. Takuma Sato

 

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.