“Prix-Viewing” the Firestone 600

Photo Credit: indycar.com

The 9th race out of 16 scheduled races of the 2016 Verizon Indycar Series campaign take us to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas on the night of Saturday, June 11th. The indycars will race 248 laps per race around the 4-turn 1.5-mile 24 degree banked oval under the lights.

Simon Pagenaud leads the Indycar points championship after finishing in 2nd place in both the 1st and 2nd races of this season in St. Petersburg and Phoenix as well as at Belle Isle, and winning in Long Beach, Alabama, and Indianapolis (Grand Prix). Other race winners from earlier this season Scott Dixon (Phoenix), Alexander Rossi (Indianapolis 500), Will Power (Detroit), Juan Pablo Montoya (St. Petersburg), and Sebastien Bourdais (Detroit), who sit 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 14th in the championship standings, respectively.

Former winners of the Texas race from past years in this year’s field include Tony Kanaan (2004), Will Power (2011), Helio Castroneves (2004, 2006, 2009, and 2013), Ed Carpenter (2015), and Scott Dixon (2008 and 2015).

Also of note is the Chevrolet vs. Honda battle. Drivers of the Honda-powered cars have seemed to race slightly better than they’ve qualified so far this year, but have only won 1 of the 8 races thus far this season, that being Alexander Rossi at the Indianapolis 500. This win showed, however, that they are indeed very strong and can be competitive, and it gives them a lot of momentum moving forward. James Hinchcliffe, driving a Honda-powered car, started from pole in the Indianapolis 500. It was Honda’s 1st pole since 2014 in race 1 of the Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. Drivers of Chevrolet-powered cars had taken 30 consecutive pole positions since then.

Honda appeared to be closing the performance gap to Chevy over the final stages of the 2015 season, but Chevy has come out and dominated to start off this season, winning 7 of the first 8 races. However, Honda seemed to make some strides at Alabama, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis 500, getting Graham Rahal to 2nd place at Alabama, placing 8 of the top 13 cars at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and sweeping the top 2 positions at the Indianapolis 500. They also placed 4 cars in the top 7 and 7 in the top 12 in Race #1 of the Dual in Detroit.

 

Drivers to watch for (with engine manufacturers):

 

The obvious:

Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet): Castroneves is a 4-time Texas winner, with the latest win coming in a dominant showing back in 2013.

Scott Dixon (Chevrolet): Dixon has won twice at Texas, including last year. This could be the race that sparks his mid-to-end-of-season run that he used in 2013 and 2015 to win his 3rd and 4th IndyCar championships.

Tony Kanaan (Chevrolet): Kanaan won at Texas in 2004, and finished runner-up a year ago.

Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevrolet): In two races, Montoya has consistently done very well, finishing in 3rd and 4th in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Will Power (Chevrolet): Power won at Texas in 2011, and has taken the pole the past 3 seasons.

Simon Pagenaud (Chevrolet): Pagenaud’s best finish at Texas is 4th in 2014. Now with Team Penske as the championship dominator thus far this season, look for him to contend for the win.

 

Less Obvious:

Ed Carpenter (Chevrolet)- Carpenter won at Texas in 2014 and is generally strong at oval tracks.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda): Hunter-Reay’s best finish at Texas is 2nd in 2013. He is strong at pretty much every track.

Graham Rahal (Honda): Rahal’s best finish at Texas is 2nd in 2012, when he hit the wall with 2 laps to go in the lead and was passed by Justin Wilson for the win.

Josef Newgarden (Chevrolet): Newgarden’s best finish at Texas is 8th in 2013, but has made many improvements at oval tracks over the years.

James Hinchcliffe (Honda): Hinchcliffe’s best finish at Texas is 4th in 2012. This will be his 1st race back at a high-banked oval since 2014 at Fontana.

Marco Andretti (Honda): Andretti’s best finish at Texas is 3rd in 2010, and he seems to run towards the front ever year here.

Carlos Munoz (Honda): Munoz’s best finish at Texas is 6th in 2015. He, too, is generally strong on the ovals.

 

 

Sleepers:

Takuma Sato (Honda): Sato’s best finish at Texas is 5th in 2011. Every once in a while he’ll find himself at the front of an oval race.

Charlie Kimball (Chevrolet): Kimball’s best finish at Texas is 7th in 2015. In that race, he showed he could be aggressive and run up front all night.

Alexander Rossi (Honda): Rossi has never raced at Texas.

Sebastien Bourdais (Chevrolet): Bourdais’ best finish at Texas is 14th in 2015. This is one of his least favorite tracks, as he is not accustomed to driving on the high-banked ovals.

Conor Daly (Honda): Daly has never raced at Texas.

 

Other notables:

Mikhail Aleshin (Honda): Aleshin’s best and only finish at Texas is 7th in 2014. He has not had much oval experience, so that 7th place finish is something he can grow on.

Gabby Chaves (Honda): Chaves’ best and only finish at Texas is 10th in 2015, and he has been a contender on ovals before.

Max Chilton (Chevrolet): Chilton has never raced at Texas.

Jack Hawksworth (Honda): Hawksworth’s best finish at Texas is 15th in 2014. He is one of the weaker oval drivers with one of the weaker oval teams of the sport.

 

-Asher Fair