Texas Early Report

Marco Andretti led the opening practice session at Texas Motor Speedway with a speed of 217.950. Tony Kanaan followed 4/100 of a second behind, followed in turn by Will Power, James, Jakes, and Simona De Silvestro. The Honda guys are relieved that their big oval woes seem to be behind them. Honda engineers thought they’d found some speed on Carb day — they knew that they weren’t competitive for the Pole, but fully expected to be at least as good as the Chevy engines for the Indy 500 — and were dismayed at the race results.

– Bob Lazier, team owner for last month’s Indy effort featuring Buddy Lazier, chatted briefly with me about his team’s efforts. As it turns out, the team pretty much broke even on the effort, with the car surviving unscathed for an effort next year. Of course, the car only has, what, 55 laps combined from the 2 races? For the record, Bob says that the team budget for a given race is around $300,000 – and that’s without any frills. The team would love to show up for more races but – wait for it – it depends on finding good sponsorship.

– I talked to Stefan Wilson, brother of Texas race favorite (wow, Justin Wilson is a favorite for a high-banked oval!) Justin. The rumor mill had him taking the second Dale Coyne seat starting at the first of the year, and later, for the Detroit race. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Stefan said that the deal he was hoping to land fell through, and hence the ride has gone to other drivers. This weekend it’s Pippa Mann’s ride, who found funding when her sponsor was pleased with the response from their Indy effort. Worse yet, last weekend Mike Conway dominated the Detroit circuit with that car.

– Rookie Tristan Vautier was chatting with his team about the line he took around the track. Tristan responded that “I’m just scared," to which his team replied that everyone is scared at Texas. It reminds me of the old Al Unser Jr commercial, where he commented that if a driver said he wasn’t scared, he was a liar. During practice a few cars had their loose moments, with the rear threatening to break loose. IndyCar drivers, of course, are trained to avoid oversteer at all costs, ‘cause by the time they feel the rear end step out it’s almost too late to save it.

– Still no word on what caused Michele Jourdain’s failed qualification attempt at Indy. The car’s behavior was described as “evil" (as well as other terms I’m sure), and to add insult to injury, gained a $1000 fine from IndyCar in the effort. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing people do hope to use the car in the future – perhaps the IMS Speedway priest should be consulted?

Tim Wohlford, reporting from Texas!!

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