Texas Saturday Morning report

All might not be well at Honda after all. At the end of practice yesterday, Takuma Sato's Honda expired, spewing liquids ("Yeah, it's oil") all over the track and requiring the "diaper" while towed back. Sarah Fisher Hartman's Honda-propelled car, diving by Josef Newgarden, never made it to the grid for qualifications. Likewise, AJ Fort's Mike Conway will go to the back of the pack after they changed out their Honda motor to a slightly older version, used last week in Detroit.

Also changing an engine was the Lotus of Simona de Silvestro. Her motor didn't expire, but rather the Lotus team has lots of motors now, and Simona's already at the back of the pack — soooo, why not use a fresh motor? The good news is that the current Lotus (okay, "Judd") motor seems to be gaining some horsepower, and will probably avoid the dreaded "105% rule" black flag.

I get the feeling that many in the IndyCar circuit won't cry too many tears if the China trip is cancelled. One of those who WOULD cry a lot of tears would be James “Sulli" Sullivan (see my interview from Baltimore last year HERE). I swear, this man would sell iceboxes to eskimos as "Deluxe storage for your designer ice cube collection". Sulli told me last night that a cancellation of the China race would be a major problem for him, since he has found lots of smaller sponsors to put on the KV Racing cars. In fact, Sulli told me that his planned entourage to China is, "Second only to Indy."

Sulli is literally on home turf — he used to own a condo here at Texas Motor Speedway. He's also very anxious that the relationship between IndyCar and TMS continue — as well as a new race in Houston. As Sulli explains it — or rather, sells it — IndyCar needs Texas races in order to build relationships with the ever-growing Hispanic crowd here in the USA.


And yea, there is that damaged relationship between TMS and IndyCar. In the wake of the Vegas race last fall, many in IndyCar — mostly people who hate ovals — decreed that we were making a mistake in going to Vegas, or Texas, or Iowa, or Michigan, or any other big track

In the wake of Dan Wheldon's death, the Texas and Vegas facilities were also singled out because the fence poles on the track are constructed such that the posts are on the "inside" of the fence instead of the "outside" of the fence — any some speculated that this was a factor in Dan's injuries.

No doubt the Texas people took great offence at finger-pointing, ESPECIALLY concerning the facilities. If you've ever been here, you will be floored by how much nicer this place is that most tracks, even Indy. That's right, the facilities here blow most of Indy into the weeds. The media center is top-notch — the Internet works (Can other tracks PLEASE note that?), the press treated to the best meals anywhere, and the TV screens are numerous and massive and nearly brand new. The garage areas are clean and new, the track surface is beautiful, the grandstand are the best I've ever seen. The fan parking is — get this! — PAVED!! If Penske was still building tracks today, he'd be taking notes from this place. And yeah, they take great pride in this place, and are probably greatly offended by any hint that they are not the finest facility.

When you walk into the paddock and press area, you are greeted by a huge banner that says, "Texas Loves IndyCar!". Providing that the racing here is, as the drivers insist it is, "fixed" to eliminate blog racing (or mob racing, or amoeba racing), I'm betting that the IndyCar drivers will want to return.

************** Sharing the track this weekend are the Global Rallycross Championship Global Rallycross Championship ). This is important for IndyCar fans, for a couple of reasons.

First, these folks are using the front stretch of TMS for a track, along with the pit road. Believe it or not, they will have a ramp (yup, a ramp) with a 70-foot jump, and there is some concern that the ramp might damage the track. This happened at Charlotte a couple of weeks ago at the '600. GRC officials think that they've got that covered this race. Oh, and there is also a water hazard too…..

Second, and more importantly — IndyCar fans are getting older. As it turns out, the younger crowd — 18-30 — are not interested in IndyCar like "we" (I'm 50 years old) were when we were young. And they're not interested in NASCAR or F1, or even NHRA. Hell, they're not even into hot rodding like the "Fast and Furious" generation. Rather, they're interested in this "extreme" stuff. And manufacturers are noticing that, and they are starting to put some money and effort into those series. In fact, Mopar has Travis Pastrana (Gold medal guy from the X games) in a very new "Dodge Dart" this weekend here at TMS. British Rallycross Vice-Champion Andy Scott and Swedish rally and Rallycross legend Per Eklund (who you don't know) are helping to relaunch Saab (yes, SAAB! SAAB! Call AutoRacing1's photographer and resident Saab enthusiast Mark Scheuern!) in this series.


Tim Wohlford, reporting from TEXAS!!

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