Friday, June 6, 2014

Preview: 2014 Firestone 600

Indycar makes another trip to one of it's prominent fixtures on its schedule: Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie Gossage, CEO of TMS, has been hosting Indycar races for years and years. The racing we've seen at this track was drastically changed in 2012 with the introduction of lower downforce DW12s. Instead of seeing a lot of close, side-by-side flat-out racing, we now see spread out racing put squarely in the drivers hands. Serving as the eighth round on the Indycar schedule, Texas could catapult a driver's chances of a championship. Also note that the race has been extended from 550 kilometers to 600.

Here are some of the headlines heading into Texas:

Championship Battle
Three drivers have separated themselves in the championship hunt. Will Power currently leads Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan had a big lead coming out of Indianapolis before having an absolutely terrible weekend in Detroit. Power and Castroneves pounced on the chance to pass him in the points. Now RHR is playing catch up.Who will come out of Texas with the win?

Will Power and Helio Castroneves - 98th Indianapolis 500
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, ans Will Power have separated themselves from the pack in the battle
for the Championship (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

Which Texas Will We Get?
Texas in 2012 was a great race. With the reduced downforce and high tire degradation that we saw with the introduction of the DW12 in 2012, the race at Texas was amazing and dramatic. The 2013 race was pretty bad in my opinion. The race was dominated by Helio Castroneves, who's car did not pass post race inspection. Also, there was more of a focus on saving your tires and car rather than racing. This was caused by another decrease in downforce and a new tire compound. I hope we get a race like we had in 2012 versus 2013.


Penske Dominance?
Will Power and Helio Castroneves are currently P1 and 2 respectively in the standings. Coming off a sweep at Detroit, can the Penske duo (and third driver Juan Pablo Montoya) continue the dominance in the series with a win at Texas?


Who Will Win?
I am not a betting man but I would put a large sum of money on someone from Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske, or Andretti Autosport winning this race. My pick is Ryan Briscoe to win. If not Ryan, you have a host of other drivers that will be flying on the ovals with their great cars and equipment. Look for the Big 3 to run up-front in the race.


Here is the schedule for the 2014 Firestone 600 (all times Eastern):

Friday
Practice 1: 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Qualifications: 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Practice 2: 7:45 PM - 8:15 PM

Saturday
8:30 PM - 10:45 PM


Here are the Indycar Driver Standings heading into Texas:
1) Will Power - 326
2) Helio Castroneves - 307
3) Ryan Hunter-Reay - 299
4) Simon Pagenaud - 247
5) Marco Andretti - 227
6) Carlos Munoz - 210
7) Juan Pablo Montoya - 187
8) Scott Dixon - 184
9) Justin Wilson - 173
10) Sebastien Bourdais - 170


Here's the top-ten finishers of the 2013 Firestone 550:
1) Helio Castroneves
2) Ryan Hunter-Reay
3) Tony Kanaan
4) Ed Carpenter
5) Marco Andretti
6) Dario Franchitti
7) Will Power
8) Josef Newgarden
9) James Hinchcliffe
10) EJ Viso


Here are the ten active Indycar drivers with the highest combined average finishing position in their careers at Texas, with the number of races they've started at Texas in parenthesizes:
1) Ryan Briscoe - 3.0 (6)
2) Tony Kanaan - 5.6 (14)
3) Helio Castroneves - 6.9 (16)
4) Scott Dixon - 7.5 (14)
5) Will Power - 7.7 (6)
6) Simon Pagenaud - 9.5 (2)
7) Josef Newgarden - 10.5 (2)
8) Marco Andretti - 11.1 (9)
9) James Hinchcliffe - 13.0 (4)
10) Ryan Hunter-Reay - 13.4 (7)


Here are the past five pole sitters and their speeds (in MPH) at Texas:
2013: Will Power - 219.182
2012: Alex Tagliani - 215.691
2011: Alex Tagliani - 215.186
2010: Ryan Briscoe - 215.273
2009: Dario Franchitti - 214.513


Lap Record at Texas:
Paul Tracy, 239.550 MPH in 2001



Here are the five larges winless droughts among active drivers in the field (total number of starts since last win):
1) Grahan Rahal - 102
2) Marco Andretti - 49
3) Sebastien Bourdais - 46
4)/Sebastian Saavedra - 45
5) Josef Newgarden - 40


And finally, here is the entry list for the 2014 Firestone 600:
#2 Juan Pablo Montoya / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#3 Helio Castroneves / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#7 Mikhail Aleshin [R] / Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports / Honda
#8 Ryan Briscoe / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#9 Scott Dixon / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#10 Tony Kanaan / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#11 Sebastien Bourdais / KVSH Racing / Chevrolet
#12 Will Power / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#14 Takuma Sato / AJ Foyt Enterprises / Honda
#15 Graham Rahal / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing / Honda
#17 Sebastian Saavedra / KVSH Racing / Chevrolet
#18 Carlos Huertas [R] / Dale Coyne Racing / Honda
#19 Justin Wilson / Dale Coyne Racing / Honda
#20 Ed Carpenter / Ed Carpenter Racing / Chevrolet
#25 Marco Andretti / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#27 James Hinchcliffe / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#34 Carlos Munoz [R] / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#67 Josef Newgarden / Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing / Honda
#77 Simon Pagenaud / Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports / Honda
#83 Charlie Kimball / Chip Ganassi Racing / Honda
#98 Jack Hawksworth [R] / Bryan Herta Autosport / Honda



Let's go racing!

-Matthew Hickey

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