IndyCar has finally put days of 100% throttle racing behind it [Editor's Note: As our subscribers know, we have been critical of the IRL's 100% throttle no talent required oval racing since the day the IRL was formed. We are happy to report that the IRL, now called IndyCar, has copied CART almost 100% in just about everything, and the new car puts the driver back into the equation on ovals, which is how it should be, and how it was in CART. IndyCar racing is a sport again, before, under Anton George and Brian Barnhart, it was just a 100% throttle no talent required entertainment circus, and a very dangerous one (pack racing with open wheel cars) at that. See our feature article on this topic]
If you’re a fan of driving a race car, then you had to appreciate what took place Saturday night.
Because for almost two hours on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway we watched the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series in what should always be their natural habitat: on the edge.
They were slipping and sliding, pushing hard and hanging on, adjusting sway bars every few laps, changing their lines, rolling in and out of the throttle, trying to keep their tires and cars underneath them at 200 mph.
Unlike so many of the 1.5-mile oval races since 1997 where every lap was run wide open and it was more of an exercise in aero packages, straight-line speed, sticking to the white line and bravery, this was totally different.
This was more the essence of their craft as they were forced to deal with a moving target for 228 laps.
Their old security blanket--a high-downforce, low horsepower Indy car that stuck to the track like a magnet and ran in packs, was taken away and replaced by an unpredictable sometimes scary 4-wheeled animal that had a mind of its own lap after lap.
The drivers had asked INDYCAR for aero changes to make them harder to drive and easier to get some separation. Mission accomplished.
“I am mentally drained, like at Indy,’’ declared Ryan Briscoe, who led late but had to settle for third place. “I had a loose race car for the last 100 laps and it was very, very challenging.
“But we asked to make the cars more difficult to drive and we got exactly what we asked for. You really had to stay on top of things and I was really happy with the package for this car.’’
Texas was the staple of the Indy Racing League, drawing big crowds that were dazzled by some of the closest finishes in open wheel history. It was also some of the most insane racing as the spec rules packed everyone on top of each other at full throttle.
Bullet after bullet was dodged at Texas, Chicago, Atlanta and Kansas City before Dan Wheldon’s death last October at Las Vegas. Veterans like Justin Wilson, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti voiced their concerns to INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard about continuing this wide open madness and he listened. So did tech chief Will Phillips, who agreed to make aero changes that didn’t get tested until last Friday’s practice session.
Some drivers said they’d gone too far so Phillips allowed a small adjustment prior to the race and INDYCAR and Texas were rewarded with an entertaining show and a damn interesting race.
And at no time was there the usual feeling of doom that forced people to watch with one eye closed because they feared the worst.
“This kind of racing tonight in Texas you were worried about your car coming back in one piece and the old kind of racing in Texas you were worried about you coming back in one piece,’’ said James Hinchcliffe, who ran fourth and moved to third in the point standings.
“I had to sit in car for a minute to have enough strength to pull steering wheel off because I had a death grip on steering wheel the last 10 laps because I was so loose. I was pretty happy to survive.’’ More at speed.com