TMS back in good graces of IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan has run a lot of races at Texas Motor Speedway, and most of them he has enjoyed. But last year, he was one of the top critics of big high-banked ovals such as Texas and Las Vegas, where a year ago Dan Wheldon died in a spectacular multi-car accident when a pair of cars touched at high speed, triggering a massive wreck.
The drivers call it pack racing, and in open-wheel cars, it is their biggest fear. But after the June race at TMS, when a rules change made for a safer, more entertaining race, and a test session Thursday in the IndyCar Series' new car for 2013, Kanaan is again a fan of Fort Worth's oval.
"The race here this year was awesome. It was a very good race -- a lot of passing," he said. "I think we changed the minds of the fans, as well. When you come to Texas, they want to see side-by-side [racing] -- 16, 20 cars -- otherwise, it wouldn't look exciting. But I think the race was extremely exciting."
TMS has hosted more IndyCar Series races (24) than any other track since the series began in 1996, and it is on the schedule again next summer. But for a while, the track and the series were at odds. There was talk of a driver boycott.
In June, on the eve of the race, the drivers got together and worked out a series of changes in the cars that kept speeds up but took away "downforce," reducing the incentive to keep the throttle open throughout the lap.
It made the drivers drive the car, and it created passing opportunities.
"First of all, I don't think we can afford to lose this race, anyway," Kanaan said. "It's one of the best ovals we go to, as far as attendance, and the whole TMS team does a great job of promoting us. And it's a big market for us. In the past, was I a big fan of pack racing? At first I didn't mind, then after what happened in Vegas, I definitely was one of the guys that voiced it up and tried to change. And we did change."
Kanaan's new teammate, Simona de Silvestro, did not get to run at TMS last year because of an engine problem, but she said she is a fan.
"I thought, looking at the race, it was so much better, because you have to drive the car in traffic, whereas before, as soon as you had to lift, 20 cars would pass you," she said. Star-Telegram
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