Race Weekend Central

IndyCar Preview: 2012 Firestone 550K at Texas

What’s News?

The DW12 will see it’s second outing on an oval and quite a different one from the large and flat Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the IZOD IndyCar Series visits Fort Worth this weekend. Tests were conducted at the Texas Motor Speedway in February and again on May 7, when 11 teams participated to set baselines and confirm the aero package that will be used for the high-banked oval. Scott Dixon set the quickest time at the May test.

IndyCar issued a technical bulletin to teams last week outlining the aero package for Texas, which will be different from what was used at Indy. Rear-wing mainplanes can be set by the teams within a 5.5-degree range and teams must use the standard speedway rear-wing endplate and standard wheel guard. Teams can experiment with front and rear wickers so there are a number of options for how they can set up the cars.

“Instead of coming here with a 10-degree rear flap that created more pack racing and people didn’t have the options to try to separate themselves and create different strategies or be fast for 20 laps but have to lift later on in the stint, there are options,” said Dixon. “It will be difficult to drive for a race stint, which I think is good.

“Having the car in a situation where you can take a lot of downforce off it’s pretty difficult and qualifying could actually be difficult for a change. At Texas, that’s pretty big.”

Track Preview: Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval with 24 degree banking in the turns. The race distance of 550K (342 miles) consists of 228 laps. This race was run in two shorter halves last year but it will return to being a single long distance event this year. Television coverage can be seen on NBC Sports Network at 8:00 p.m. Saturday (June 9) while the IMS Radio Network broadcast can be heard on SiriusXM channel 94.

What’s the Points (Driver Standings): Will Power still holds the overall lead but Dixon’s dominant performance in Detroit vaults him up to second place, trailing Power by 26 markers. Helio Castroneves had a late spin that dropped him far back in the running order at Detroit and slips to third, 55 out of the lead. Dario Franchitti moves up to fourth and James Hinchcliffe, who got bit by the racetrack at Belle Isle, drops to fifth.

The oval-track standings stay right where we left them after Indy with Franchitti leading while Power remains atop the road-course standings.

What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers): Chevrolet remains atop the manufacturer points with 48 to Honda’s 42, but the gap has closed somewhat. Lotus continues to bring up the rear with 24 points, only half as many as leader Chevrolet.

Featured Driver: Dixon. Dixon had tough days in Long Beach and Sao Paulo. In every other race this season he has finished second or first, and that first place run at Belle Isle last week was as dominant as dominant gets. Dixon scored the maximum possible 53 points on the weekend by winning, leading the most laps and qualifying on the pole.

Some drivers are better on road courses and some drivers are better on ovals but the thing about Dixon is that the New Zealand native is just flat good everywhere. In case you are wondering if he knows his way around Texas, he won there in 2008. Oh, and don’t play Jenga with him either.

Who Wins? In this newest section of our race preview, your Frontstretch IndyCar experts will weigh in with who we each think will win this week’s race and why.

Toni Montgomery: I get that folks are getting tired of Franchitti winning everything but I think you will see the Scot in victory lane again at Texas. With two wins in a row, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has hit its stride now and both of the cars will be strong but I give the edge to Franchitti. Last year the Texas race was split into two parts and Franchitti won the first. Due to an inversion he had to start at the back in the second part and still drove to a seventh-place finish.

Danny Peters: Following on quickly from his victory at Belle Isle, I’m picking Dixon to make it back-to-back wins this Saturday night under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway. After four straight wins for Chevy (three for Power, one for Castroneves), the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team has bounced back from a slow start with Franchitti’s third Indy 500 victory and Dixon’s first-place effort last weekend.

Expect both the Ganassi cars to be strong all night long with Dixon just edging his teammate for a second straight win in 2012.

Matt Stallknecht: I am going with Marco Andretti this week. It is clear based on their performance throughout the month of May that Andretti Autosport is hooked up on the ovals and Andretti ought to be extra hungry after his disappointment in Indy two weeks ago. Andretti excels on the high-speed ovals, and Texas is a track where he ought to feel right at home. Look for the No. 26 RC Cola machine to pull into victory lane Saturday night.

Any Other News

  • Tony Kanaan got down and dirty with the stars of NASCAR at Tony Stewart’s Prelude to the Dream charity race at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday night. This marked Kanaan’s third appearance in the event. He finished 22nd.
  • The IZOD IndyCar Series has signed on XYQ, a technology company and application service provider, as the entitlement sponsor for the Milwaukee IndyFest weekend next week. XYQ will create a wireless application called Milwaukee IndyFest WayFinder that fans can download in the Android Marketplace or iTunes that they can then use to navigate at-track activities.

Upcoming: The oval portion of the summer continues next week at the historic Milwaukee Mile with the Milwaukee IndyFest weekend. Note this is a Saturday afternoon event with television coverage back on the ABC network at 1:00 p.m. ET. Andretti is the defending race winner.

After that comes a stop at Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 the following Saturday, June 23. The IZOD IndyCar Series then takes a well deserved weekend off before heading north of the border for stops in Toronto and Edmonton in July.

About the author

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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