Let’s start with some timely trivia. The last time an Indy 500 winner didn’t participate in the very next race in the season (in either IRL or Champ Car / CART) was Buddy Lazier in 1996. Granted, the Indy 500 that year was held at the height of the war between CART and the IRL, was contested only by IRL teams and was boycotted by most CART teams, who staged their own race, the US 500, at Michigan, on the same day. Further, the 1996 Indy 500 was the final race of the inaugural IRL season, so there literally was no next race until the following year.
Our resident IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at the season’s only two-race event – and the first in 20 years – and explains some of its finer technicalities…
With all of this now behind us, this same situation exists now for 2011 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon. A former series champion, yet free agent in 2011, was given an Indy-only deal by former team-mate Bryan Herta, and made the absolute most of it by setting and maintaining front-running pace through the month of May, keeping the car out of the wall on race day and taking an unlikely win. Wheldon came so close to being the “bridesmaid” for the third year in a row, only to be practically gifted the win following JR Hildebrand’s final-corner mishap, documented right here on RichardsF1.
With no form setter as the circus departs Indianapolis for another year, this weekends race in Texas is capable of being anybody’s game. Added to the uncertain mix is a return to the twin-race format, last used in Atlanta almost 20 years ago but new to the IndyCar Series. The Texas Twin 275s will be back-to-back races with half-points offered in each.
So how does a twin race work you ask? Qualifying for Race 1 takes place as normal, and is based on the combined times of two green flag laps per car. The grid for Race 2 will literally be decided by luck, as a blind draw will take place 15 minutes after the first race concludes. The drivers will draw their starting positions in the reverse order to how they finished Race 1 (i.e. the driver classified last will be the first to draw their starting position for Race 2).
The new format should throw up plenty of surprises as the teams try to get to grips with any situation that presents itself.
Team Penske and Andretti Autosports, two teams somewhat accustomed to being at or near the front most of the time, will want to have discovered and rectified the problems hampering them at Indy. Having said that, the Texas layout is an entirely different beast, but maximising aerodynamic efficiency will be no less important.
Race 1 takes place at 7:45pm local time Saturday night, which is 10am Sunday morning AEST. It should be a frantic night of racing under the hot Texan lights.
[Images via LAT]