When the Verizon IndyCar Series last visited Texas Motor Speedway, the track had an aged surface and 24 degrees of banking in all the turns. Since that visit, the 1.5-mile oval has been both repaved and reconfigured.
Turns 1 and 2 now feature 20 degrees of banking and a wider racing surface. Although the track is flatter in that wide section, another groove closer to the outside wall could come into play, which would encourage more passing on the outside.
And since 1 and 2 are now different than 3 and 4, teams will have to figure out a balance in their setups so that the car is not too good at one end of the track and not good enough at the other. In a way, setting up for this weekend should be similar to Pocono, which has three unique turns, because teams will have to compromise the car’s handling in one corner so that it gains something in another.
“Obviously, the track has been completely repaved and re-profiled in Turns 1 and 2, so really everything goes out the window from last year, and we’ve got to start from scratch just like everybody else,” said James Hinchcliffe, who led 188 of 248 laps in the Firestone 600 last season. “Hopefully we can put our heads down and get the No. 5 car in a position to be fighting for the victory again.”
Hinchcliffe finished second to Graham Rahal by a nose length. Last season’s race was an eventful one for three reasons:
- The finish. Rahal beat Hinchcliffe to the checkered flag by eight-thousandths of a second. It was the fifth-closest margin of victory in IndyCar history and an exciting spectacle in the final laps.
- The race started in June but didn’t finish until August. Torrential rain postponed the event two and a half months on Lap 71.
- Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly had a spectacular crash on the frontstretch. Daly’s car broke loose on the exit of Turn 4 and slammed Newgarden into the wall and flipped him upside down. Newgarden walked away with a broken right shoulder and hand.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and XFINITY Series raced on the new surface in April. Turns 1 and 2 were noticeably different as drivers preferred the bottom lane. And since the track is wider, the apron is narrower. IndyCar veteran Ed Carpenter believes this is a good thing for the race as cars exit pit road.
“It was bumpy (on the apron), and with it being so wide, everyone ran a different line so it would get dirty,” Carpenter said. “This was the widest pit exit we had anywhere, but we have other places that are narrow like this, and it’s never created any problems.
“For me, the fact that it’s new and smooth is the overpowering factor that’s going to be a positive, for sure.”
The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 takes place on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. It’s the ninth event of the 17-race season and third on an oval.