“Prix-Viewing” the Firestone 428

Photo Credit: theapexracing.co

No, the official name of the IndyCar race this weekend is not the Firestone 428. The official name of the race is the Firestone 600. But 172 kilometers of the race were already raced back in early June. Why? Well, that’s kind of a long story.

The 14th race out of 16 scheduled races of the 2016 Verizon Indycar Series calendar brings us back to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas on the night of Saturday, August 27th. The race was initially scheduled as the 9th race of the season on the night of Saturday, June 11th, but rain caused the race to be postponed until the afternoon of the next day, Sunday, June 12th. After 71 laps of the 248 scheduled laps were run, the rains came down again. This caused IndyCar and Texas Motor Speedway officials to agree on the August 27th date. The indycars will race the remaining 177 laps around the 4-turn 1.455-mile D-shaped oval.

Simon Pagenaud leads the Verizon IndyCar Series points championship by 20 points over Will Power. Power had to sit out of the season opener at St. Petersburg with concussion-like symptoms, a race that started a streak of 5 consecutive top 2 finishes for Pagenaud, including 3 wins. Power is currently on a streak of 6 consecutive top 2 finishes including 4 victories. Pagenaud, however, has won since his streak ended, winning last race at Mid-Ohio, while Power did not win at all during Pagenaud’s streak.

Race winners from this season are Simon Pagenaud, who won at Long Beach, Barber, Indianapolis, and Mid-Ohio, Will Power, who won at the 2nd Detroit race, Road America, Toronto, and Pocono, Josef Newgarden, who won at Iowa, Scott Dixon, who won at Phoenix, Alexander Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500,  Juan Pablo Montoya, who won at St. Petersburg, and Sebastien Bourdais, who won at the 1st Detroit race. Those drivers sit 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 12th, 13th, 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 13 races thus far this season, that being Alexander Rossi at the Indianapolis 500, which, like Texas, is a superspeedway. James Hinchcliffe, also driving a Honda-powered car, took the pole for the Indianapolis 500 as well. That pole position was Honda’s first in 31 races.

The drivers of the Honda-powered cars were also very strong at Texas Motor Speedway, running 1st, 2nd, and 3rd when the race was suspended after 71 out of 248 laps. Taking the pole for that race was Carlos Munoz, who also drives a Honda-powered car. Mikhail Aleshin added another pole for the drivers of the Honda-powered cars with his pole at Pocono, giving Honda the 3-race sweep of the pole positions at the superspeedways.

So far this season, drivers of the Honda-powered cars have done well, but not fantastic, at pretty much every track, but have been seemingly equal to if not better than the drivers of the Chevrolet-powered cars on the superspeedways (took the pole and the win at Indianapolis, took the pole and were running 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at Texas before the race was suspended, and took the pole and 2 of the top 3 finishing positions at Pocono).

With the drivers of the Honda-powered cars doing well in races (not qualifying) at pretty much every venue and driving spectacularly on the superspeedways, the remainder of this year’s Firestone 600 (the Firestone 428) looks like it could be another pretty even battle between drivers driving cars of both Chevrolet and Honda, much like many of the races on super-speedways have been with the new Chevrolet and Honda aero kits, which were introduced at the beginning of last season.

In the postponed race that took place on the afternoon of Sunday, June 12th, a terrible crash happened involving Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly 42 laps into the race. Conor Daly’s car got loose out of turn 4 and spun into the car of Josef Newgarden. Newgarden’s car was flipped onto its side before being smashed into the SAFER barrier by Daly’s out-of-control machine, cockpit-first. Daly walked away from the wreck unharmed. Newgarden got out of his car with some help from the Holmatro Safety Crew before crumbling to the ground in an evident state of shock. He was then transported to a local hospital for examinations on his right shoulder and right wrist. It was later revealed that he had fractured both his right clavicle and a bone in his right wrist.

Because of this awful incident, neither one of these drivers will be able to compete in this weekend’s remainder of the race, as they would both begin the race nearly 30 laps behind the leader. This really hurts both drivers, as Newgarden is currently sitting in 3rd place in this season’s championship, so his hopes at winning his first ever Verizon IndyCar Series championship will be greatly diminished at the conclusion of Saturday’s race when his competitors walk away with more points that he does, and Daly is still trying to find his rhythm on superspeedways, so not being able to get more experience on a high-banked high-speed track like Texas Motor Speedway could play to his disadvantage at some point down the road.

The race will be resumed from lap 72 using the running order from when the race was suspended in June. The cars were weighed in June, and based on the weight, that is how the series will determine how much fuel each car will start the race with, since certain cars were off sequence in terms of pitting when it was announced that the race would be postponed until this Saturday.

The running order will be included in a separate post. You can find it HERE.

Drivers To Watch For (with Engine/Aero Kit Manufacturer):

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.
  • 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.

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