For this upcoming season, AutoRacing1.com columnist Brian Carroccio will preview all Formula 1 and IndyCar races. Below, is Brian's preview of this weekend's Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
|Helio Castroneves celebrating his win at TMS last year, Texas-style. |
A Brief Overview
Saturday evening, the Verizon IndyCar Series will make its annual pilgrimage to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 in the 1.455 mile oval. It will be the 26th time the series has run at TMS since 1997.
Who runs well at TMS?
|Justin Wilson scored a surprise win two years ago at TMS. |
There are six previous winners on the entry list. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves easily has the most sterling record of anyone at Texas with four victories, two seconds and one pole position. Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power and Tony Kanaan each have once at TMS.
In addition to his 2008 win, Dixon has finished second four times, third once, and sat on pole once. Kanaan has finished second three times, and third twice. Briscoe has a second-place finish, three thirds, and one pole position. Power has one third and one pole as well.
|Ryan Hunter-Reay was strong at TMS last year; just no match for the dominant Castroneves. |
Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second last year, as did Graham Rahal in 2012. Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti finished third in 2010. No other driver scheduled to take the green flag Saturday evening has stood on the podium at TMS.
Is there anyone else with a particularly noteworthy record at TMS?
Aside from those previously mentioned, only James Hinchcliffe and Ed Carpenter who have each finished fourth once, and Takuma Sato, who finished fifth in 2011 (Race 1) have recorded top-5 finishes at TMS.
What about teams?
|The Captain has won TMS seven times. |
Team Penske has won seven races at TMS, Ganassi three times, Andretti Autosport and Dale Coyne Racing once each. And interestingly, the now-defunct Panther Racing won at TMS five times.
However, no other team in this year’s field has won at Texas.
Who is making their debut this weekend at TMS?
Rookies Carlos Munoz, Carlos Huertas, Jack Hawksworth, and Mikhail Aleshin will run TMS for the first time. And although Juan Pablo Montoya has run TMS in a stock car, he will make his Indy car racing debut at the track Saturday.
Is there anyone with a particularly unexceptional record at TMS?
|Charlie Kimball finished on the podium last week in Detroit. TMS, however, has not been very good to him. |
Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball has never finished better than 17th in 4 TMS starts. KV/AFS Racing’s Sebastian Saavedra has never come home better than 14th in three starts.
Also, I found this interesting. KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais has only one start at TMS (2013), when he finished 20th.
Last, although he won the 2012 race, Wilson has no finish better than 15th in 6 other starts at TMS.
How important is qualifying at TMS?
More important than I suspected.
|Ryan Briscoe won from pole in 2010. |
In the last 12 races at TMS, the pole winner has won 5 times, and the driver starting second and third twice each. Only two times in that span has a winner come from outside the top-4 grid positions, ironically enough, the last two years. Wilson won from 17th two years ago, while Castroneves won from sixth last year.
So, who are the favorites coming into this weekend?
Given his and Team Penske’s record at TMS, combined with his performance over the last few races, I see no way Castroneves is not the favorite headed into the weekend.
Yes, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Power and some of the other usual suspects will be in the mix. But Castroneves is the man to beat.
Are there any potential sleepers?
|Ed Carpenter and the Fuzzy's Vodka team should be a factor Saturday night. |
I’m not entirely sure Carpenter is a sleeper, as he’s been sterling at tracks such as Fontana, Indy, and Kentucky in recent years. However, Carpenter and the Fuzzy’s Vodka team are the best bet to rain on a possible Penske/Ganassi/Andretti parade Saturday evening.
So, who will win?
I don’t think he’ll quite check out as he did last year. However, given the form displayed by both driver and team in recent weeks, and their history at TMS, look a Texas-style fence climb come Saturday night.
Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.