(A thrilling oval race under lights saw Ryan Briscoe recover from a wobbly start to his season with a hard-fought win over the resurgent Danica Patrick. It was a good day for the Andretti Autosport crowd, who had two drivers on the podium and all four drivers finishing in the top-seven. But safety considerations took a primary headline with the shocking crash for HVM’s Simona de Silvestro. Our IndyCar correspondent, Matt Lennon, takes a look at all of the action in his typically erudite, no-holding-back manner. Enjoy!)
First, some housekeeping as there is always plenty following on from Indy. As mentioned in the race preview, Davey Hamilton’s car was unable to be rebuilt so he didn’t participate at Texas. After 463 collective man-hours of labour, Raphael Matos’ car was rebuilt following his Indy smash and he would take part.
Also, after his horrific crash on the last lap at Indy, Mike Conway, who fractured his lower left leg, will be out of action for at least 3 months. The young Briton spent 5 nights in Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, was released on Friday evening and will be replaced at Dreyer & Reinbold by Tomas Scheckter for the time being.
After a disappointing end to his Indy 500, Ryan Briscoe took pole for the Texas 550 and despite the first start being waved off, led away from the green flag (pictured right) with 25 other cars in hot pursuit. Side by side racing ensued, with Briscoe barely holding off Dario Franchitti’s early attacks. Scott Dixon was another early mover toward the front. The first man to encounter trouble was Jay Howard driving for Sarah Fisher Racing who pitted with engine trouble.
By Lap 25, Briscoe had opened up a small gap of about two-tenths to Franchitti. By Lap 35, Danica Patrick found an extension to her accelerator, powering past Dan Wheldon, Alex Lloyd and Helio Castroneves into 5th place, opening up a gap to them and heading towards the leading pack.
Lap 46 – The first caution period for debris cleanup prompted the first round of pitstops. Briscoe had a long stop, dropped four spots with Dario Franchitti assuming the lead. Danica Patrick gained one place and resumed in 3rd. Off the restart on Lap 53, Danica jumped to 2nd place. Her car looked very well hooked up, and interviews with her engineer indicated she was very quiet on the radio, meaning she was obviously happy with her car. Franchitti was attempting to become the third driver in a row to win the Indy 500 / Texas double, joining Dixon and Castroneves in that honour.
Lap 57 – Takuma Sato crashes his Lotus branded KV Racing machine heavily into the wall (pictured left). Replays suggested something broke on the car. Sato was OK and happy with his huge learning curve on his first trip to a high-banked oval.
The restart came on Lap 67 with Dario Franchitti wasting no time opening up a lead.
Lap 99 – Simona De Silvestro crashes heavily, rupturing her fuel tank and coming to a stop with the car in flames. The marshals were quick on the scene but were having difficulty getting Simona out of the car due to the many safety restraints in the modern IndyCar. It was an ugly scene as by this stage, the car was well alight. Eventually De Silvestro was extracted from the car and the fire was soon extinguished, but Simona appeared quite distressed sitting on the side of the track and in a considerable amount of pain. She was taken by ambulance to the infield medical centre. The crash had spread debris along the entire back straight and the field headed for the pits while the extensive cleanup began.
While under caution, Will Power was forced to pit a second time as he suspected there was some debris stuck under his car. It turned out to be the wishbone from the suspension of De Silvestro’s car, was found and removed, and Power was sent on his way, albeit now towards the back of the pack.
Due to the extensive cleanup from Simona De Silvestro’s crash, the restart didn’t come until Lap 113.
Lap 129 – Mario Moraes squeezes Helio Castroneves into the outside wall on the exit of Turn 4 and both slide into the infield. Amazingly, as both were headed onto the grass, they left rookie Bertrand Baguette nowhere else to go but in-between both cars, hitting Castroneves rear wing but coming so close to doing so much more damage. After coming to a stop, Castroneves springs from his car, runs over to Moraes and is shown giving the young Brazilian a piece of his mind (pictured right). Helio was not happy at all. Baguette was also out of the race.
The majority of the field headed for their next pit stop.
Simona De Silvestro is then interviewed coming out of the medical centre. Despite some minor burns to her right hand, she is ok and thankful the marshals acted so quickly.
Alex Tagliani, who did not pit, led the field at the restart on Lap 139. He stayed out hoping for another caution period to allow him to pit. It didn’t come and on Lap 167, Tagliani had to pit, costing him the lead and putting him a lap down.
The leaders made their last pitstops under green flag conditions. Danica pitted first, followed a lap later by Briscoe. Danica made the better stop and got past Briscoe as he rejoined the track, to a round of thunderous cheers from both the crowd and the Go-Daddy.com team.
A few laps later, Briscoe regained the lead through some extra presses of his overtake assist button and then proceeded to build a small gap to Danica. This lead would never be relinquished from here.
Will Power, who if he didn’t have bad luck would have no luck at all, was forced to make a late pitstop 5 laps from the end, which would eventually cost him the championship lead.
Over the final laps, Briscoe extended his lead over Danica to two seconds, and despite slowing right at the end, put his disappointing showing at Indy in the past, taking the victory by 1.4 seconds from Patrick. Briscoe celebrated with some traditional donuts before accepting his winners trophy in victory lane. The story of the day though was the terrific performance by Danica Patrick, who finished in a strong 2nd place. Marco Andretti followed up on his strong 3rd place at Indianapolis by repeating it with another podium place. Next up in two weeks – the Iowa Corn 250.
Click here for the Final Standings of the race.
Click here for the current Championship Standings.
[Original images via AUTOSPORT]