The 2014 Firestone 600 is now in the books. Here are our first impressions of last night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page!
Based on a good chunk of the fan reaction I’ve seen tonight, saying that I miss the “old” racing at Texas Motor Speedway is slightly less acceptable than saying I enjoy watching children starve. Rather, let me just say that if this race had occurred in June 2000 when I was still a die-hard CART fan, I doubt I would have immediately become the fan of the IndyCar series that I did.
The victory of popular Ed Carpenter can only go so far to mask what was once again a pretty lackluster race. I have no doubt the cars were a handful to drive and most of the drivers enjoyed the opportunity to manhandle and chase the cars throughout a fuel and tire stint. You know what else drivers would probably really enjoy doing? Racing in front of a crowd that’s twice as big as it was tonight, like it was a decade ago when the combination of the words IndyCar and Texas made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. I’m sorry, Scott Dixon, but I don’t think you put on much of a “good show for the fans.” But thanks for thinking about us.
Kudos to Will Power for overcoming yet another pit penalty to finished second tonight. Obviously he benefitted greatly from the late-race caution that allowed him to both change tires and recover nearly a full lap on the field. Nonetheless, to have a penalty like that so late in the race generally destroys your night, but Power was able to regain a huge amount of points that will no doubt be critical late in the season. One must wonder why Power continues to push so very hard in situations that don’t call for such risk. To win a championship, a driver must minimize any mistakes made throughout the season, yet Power continues to throw away points by making the same mistake over and over again.
Finally, what has happened with Honda? Tonight saw spectacular engine failures on board Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato, and the #27 Andretti Autosport had a similar detonation during the first week of practice at Indianapolis. When there are flames coming out of the exhaust, it’s unlikely the failure was caused by an electronics problem. Honda may have caught up to Chevrolet’s speed pretty quickly with its new twin-turbo engine, but it seems it is still well behind in terms of reliability, especially on the full-throttle ovals, a problem that could have dire consequences with many points yet to be scored on the ovals before the end of the season.
Will Power said the downforce level was “perfect.” The cars were on rails. Half the race ran with nary a misstep before a caution came out.
And that creates quite the conundrum. Because while the tires were going off, the many challenges the drivers were facing simply didn’t translate to television. And with the late finish in the east and the competition of a Stanley Cup final game in the west, I fear this year’s event at Texas Motor Speedway — once a crown jewel of the IndyCar calendar — will edge close to the mythical 0.0 overnight rating.
On the other hand, we can’t give the entire field crazy loose race cars in the name of entertainment, either. These are human beings being strapped into these cars, and Texas creates more apprehension in them than any other track on the schedule. Their concerns and their comfort levels absolutely must be respected when deciding what rules package to put in place. And we know what letting these cars go too fast on a high-banked oval can do, so simply cranking up the power is likely not a workable solution.
It’s a shame to see an event that was once IndyCar’s most thrilling relegated to a balancing act that the fans at home can never win. Maybe the day is coming when it will be collectively decided, for a whole host of reasons, that it’s an equation that can never be solved and IndyCars don’t really belong on 1.5 mile ovals at all.
I, for one, thought that this was a very interesting race, but I may be in the minority since I liked last year’s tire management race as well. I think that we see the cream rise to the top when drivers have to manage their tires and grip levels like they did today.
Speaking of which, it still amazes me that Ed Carpenter always seems to be opposed to this type of racing, even though he is fantastic at it. Two of Ed’s three career victories have come in “low downforce” races, and I wonder if his opinion of it will finally start to improve. He was definitely happy with it in the media center after the race!
Ed Carpenter Racing is now firmly established in my mind as one of the powerhouse teams in IndyCar. With the addition of Mike Conway for the road and street courses, it is no longer a surprise to see the Fuzzy’s Vodka machine at the front of the field, no matter the venue.
Other thoughts: the Andretti Autosport teams had a week to forget, with Marco and RHR suffering engine failueres while James Hinchcliffe battled handling issues. A Carlos Munoz spin on pit road capped off the evening, and I’m sure that the AA boys couldn’t get the hauler loaded up quick enough to suit Michael.
The Penske Racing duo of Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya provided one of the strangest and funniest press conferences of all time after finsihing second and third. They shared an awkward hello to start, seemed to want nothing to do with one another in the middle, and ended up by hugging each other while still at the podium! It was awkwardly hilarious and really ended up livening up the mood in the press conference.
I found this race enjoyable more for the ever-changing strategies than any impressive passing on the track. No crazy pack racing, just a lot of cars mainly strung out around the track, but pit strategy, tire degradation and the occasional mistake brought interest. Other than Marco Andretti’s festival of high-line passing before his engine blew on the fourth lap, we had to wait until the last stint for Ed Carpenter to blow past Will Power for more thrills. It was fun to see Ed Carpenter Racing continue to rise with their second win of the season, and really surprising to see the Andretti Autosport team implode at this track. Perhaps some time off will help them regroup, track down what caused their failures, fix their machines, catch a breath and come back stronger in the second half.