For the fifth consecutive weekend from the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on 10 May through qualifying weekend, the Indy 500 and a double-header in Detroit, the IndyCar Series drivers will again suit up for action as the series heads to the pulse-racing Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 this weekend.

If nothing else is motivating them other than a break after this race, the desire to do well and carry some momentum at the start of the US summer will surely do it.


The Circuit

2014 INDYCAR SERIES FIRESTONE 600

Texas Motor Speedway

Date 06-07 June 2014
Lap Length 2.4km / 1.5 miles
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:00-11:15
Qualifying Fri 14:00-15:30
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 18:45-19:15
Race (248 laps) Sat 19:50-21:45
2013 Winners Hélio Castroneves

* All session times are quoted in Central Daylight Time (GMT -05:00 hrs)

From a series built on a premise of oval-racing, Texas is now the only 1.5-mile oval on the calendar, with the ultra-fast and doubly-exciting circuits taking a major PR battering following the tragedy of Las Vegas in 2011. Prior to that, the series was regularly racing at Kansas, Nashville, Kentucky, Chicagoland and Homestead, all now gone and mostly in favour of street circuits. So oval fans, as much as they cry out for more on the circuit, must make do with what little the series provides to it – all the more reason why Texas is always the most eagerly anticipated race behind the Indianapolis 500 itself.

From its inception in 1997, the race has gradually been lengthened both to give the fans more value for money, to put more racing into television timeslots and to mix up strategies and possibly force drivers to make an additional pit stop, increasing the unpredictability of the event.

Starting out as a 500km race over 208 laps, different measurements and re-measurements of the track have somehow resulted in slightly altered interpretations and therefore, race lengths. From 2001, the race was shortened to 200 laps, resulting in a 468km event. In 2007, 228 laps were run, which saw the length increased to 550km, and now from this year, 600km will be run, or 248 laps. In addition, for the first time, the race will start later and will be held entirely under lights rather than starting in the summer twilight.


Fort Worth Talking Points

Hélio Castroneves and Team Penske have been the most successful driver and team at Texas out of all to race here, having taken four and eight wins at the facility respectively – the most recent being last year. Coming off the win in the second race at Detroit last weekend, the affable Brazilian has all the momentum heading in to what must surely be one of his favourite tracks.

Elsewhere in the paddock, Ryan Hunter-Reay will be desperate to consign Detroit to the history books, which couldn’t really have been any worse had he tried. The last two weeks for the Floridian have been extreme to say the least, at both ends of the success spectrum, following his Indy 500 triumph the week prior to Detroit.

Texans love their motorsport, and the gigantic grandstand flanking the start-finish side is always full for NASCAR but unfortunately it usually looks relatively empty for IndyCar. Hopefully promoters have been spreading the word ad nauseum to locals and motorsport fans everywhere and that the stands are full for the entire 600 kilometres of mayhem, drama and excitement. It’s sure to be a nail-biter.

Images via Auto Week

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Matt Lennon

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