Some changes in the driving lineups are set to greet the fans arriving at and tuning into Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the Firestone 550 – the eighth race of the 2013 IZOD Indycar Series which has already seen six different racewinners so far.
As we reported yesterday, the musical chairs at Panther Racing will continue following the departure of JR Hildebrand ahead of Detroit, this time seeing the also newly unemployed Oriol Servia jump into the seat this weekend, and again in two weeks’ time at Iowa. Panther Racing boss John Barnes said he is in no hurry to find a permanent replacement for Hildebrand and may very well use the rest of the season to blood some up-and-coming drivers to give them a taste of competition at the top level. For the plethora of talent in the Indy Lights Series, that will be music to their ears.
Elsewhere, Pippa Mann will get her second outing of the year following on from her disappointing finish at Indianapolis a fortnight ago. Mann scraped the wall on the outside of Turn 4 closing Lap 46, causing enough damage to put her out of the race. The super-quick Brit though will get a shot at redemption when she returns to the fold at Dale Coyne Racing this weekend.
Texas, like last year, marks the return to the 1.5-mile oval type of racing over which a cloud from Las Vegas still hangs, which is slowly dissipating. Changes to the cars made last year in which downforce was taken out of the front wings really spiced up the racing yet maintained the natural speed in the Dallara DW12. It certainly made for an exciting race which was won by Justin Wilson after a late race brush with the wall ruined it for Graham Rahal.
The spark has disappeared somewhat from Will Power this season. This may be because such was his dominance over the last three years that he has put himself on a pedestal of sorts leading in to the 2013 season. As such, the rest of the field, but in particular the road and street course winners so far in James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud have improved their game and taken the fight right to Power. Now, the part of the season the Aussie dislikes the most – ovals – are in full swing and Power is finding it is time to show he has become a more complete racer, able to compete on the short tracks as much as his road course bread and butter in order to put himself back into contention this season.
This series is so open, it is impossible to pick a winner. In fact, with the newfound competitiveness of Dale Coyne Racing and AJ Foyt Enterprises near matching the efforts of Penske and Ganassi with a fraction of the funding, just goes to prove the point further.
Texas will once again be 225 laps of flat out furious racing, and you will be poorer for having missed it if you do. Let’s fire up those Honda and Chevrolet engines and go speedway racing.