(Fresh from adding the Borg Warner Trophy to his cabinet, no doubt alongside the Harley J Earl trophy – won by Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500 in February – Chip Ganassi must be riding an unparalleled wave of confidence into the next round of the Indycar Series this weekend. Our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a gaze into his crystal ball to make his predictions about this weekend’s night race at the Texas Motor Speedway…)
Traditionally, only ever a week’s break separates the Indy 500 from the next round. After being housed in Indianapolis for close to a month feverishly working on their cars for the big race, I doubt the drivers and teams wouldn’t mind the scenery change too much either.
An interesting pattern is beginning to form following 5 rounds of the 2010 championship. Team Penske, with 2 wins to Will Power in Sao Paulo and St Pete, and 1 to Helio Castroneves at Barber Motorsports Park, have a firm stranglehold on the road courses visited so far. Team Target Chip Ganassi, through Scott Dixon, won comfortably at the Kansas Speedway and with Dario Franchitti’s win at Indy last weekend, the ovals are fast becoming Team Ganassi’s dominion. Team Penske and the other Indy teams will all be trying to turn that tide of momentum sooner rather than later.
Most teams who competed at Indy last weekend will have had a busy week repairing their damaged cars by the time the Texas race comes around. Unfortunately, recent news coming from Luczo de Ferran Racing is that Davey Hamilton, originally confirmed only for the Indy and Texas races, will be unable to repair Hamilton’s car in time for Texas and will only run the 1 full-time car for Raphael Matos on Saturday night.
But there’s more ban news in the Dreyer & Reinbold camp, with Mike Conway being ruled out of competition for the next three months after his massive leg-breaking accident at the Indy 500. But it’s not the leg break that has ruled him out of competition, rather, it is soft-tissue damage and a compression fracture in one of his thoracic vertebrae that will keep him out of the cockpit. The other man in the accident, Ryan Hunter-Reay, was lucky to escape with just a left thumb injury, and he is expected to be race-fit for this weekend. As yet, Dreyer & Reinbold have not announcement a replacement for Conway, or even if there will be one at all…
The Texas Speedway, a 1.5-mile high-speed, high-banked oval, will be the first night race of the season. Last year, Ryan Briscoe appeared headed for a dominant victory. With the fastest car all weekend, the race ran almost the entire distance under green- flag conditions and Briscoe had built a 15 second lead, comfortably maintaining it through a round of green-flag pit stops.
A later caution period for minor debris cleanup caused Briscoe’s lead to disappear and for the field to head for their final pit stops, with Helio Castroneves beating Briscoe out of the pits, leading to the finish (pictured). Despite finishing second, commentators empathised with Briscoe for losing his lead through an unfortunate caution. Ryan graciously took it on the chin and congratulated his team-mate on the win.
For 2010, my tip for the race is for Dario Franchitti to take back-to-back race victories to kick-start his championship title defence back into gear. The race will be broadcast live at 9pm Eastern on ABC in America and ESPN in Australia at 11am Sunday morning AEST. Enjoy the race at Texas!
[Original image via AUTOSPORT]