The Verizon IndyCar Series makes its annual stop this season at Texas Motor Speedway with Saturday’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 (7:30 p.m. CT, TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius XM Channel 214 and 95.9 FM The Ranch locally).
Here are “5 Things You Need To Know” about the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 heading into this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
- NEW-LOOK TEXAS: NASCAR had their first crack at recently repaved and re-profiled Texas Motor Speedway in April and now it’s time to see what the results will be with the Verizon IndyCar Series on the track. Teams and drivers were here a few days following the NASCAR race in April for a test (notes below) and came away impressed. In addition to a full repave including pit lane, the off-season project included reducing the banking from 24 to 20 degrees and expanding the racing surface from 60 to 80 feet in Turns 1 & 2. Turns 3 & 4 remain the same at 24-degree banking and 60 feet of racing surface.
- TOUGH TO REPEAT: The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 will be the 29th Verizon IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Graham Rahal is the defending champion and if he were to win this year it would mark the first time a driver has won consecutive INDYCAR races at the venue. Scott Sharp won the first of two INDYCAR races at TMS in 2000 and 2001, but did not win the second race of 2000 that was held in the fall.
- GREAT SCOTT: Helio Castroneves holds the all-time Verizon IndyCar Series victory mark at Texas Motor Speedway with four, including his most recent in 2013. Sam Hornish Jr. is next on that list with three. There are three drivers that have won twice at TMS and all of their first names are “Scott” as in Dixon, Goodyear and Sharp. However, only Dixon is an active driver in the series and looking to move up on the TMS victory list. Dixon’s wins came in 2008 and ’15.
- POWER PLAY: Look for Team Penske’s Will Power to be at the front of the grid for Saturday night’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600. Power is the the top VICS driver for average starting position at 3.55. Buoying that average was Power winning the pole three consecutive years from 2013-15. He has started no worse than eighth in his nine career races at TMS.
- SEALING GOOD: Rainguard Water Sealers signed a three-year agreement with Texas Motor Speedway in December to become the entitlement sponsor of the annual Verizon IndyCar Series race held at the world-renowned motorsports facility. The multi-year deal for “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race,” begins this weekend. The agreement is the first entitlement sponsorship of any kind for the company that is based is Newport Beach, Calif. Rainguard was founded in 1969 as a manufacturer of architectural grade coatings used in the construction industry. In 2010, it developed a full line of specialty sealer products for the home improvement marketplace. The company specializes in premium sealers, interior and exterior sealers, water protection and exterior stains.
WEEKEND INFIELD PARKING NOTICE
Because of footprints needed for the Stadium SUPER Trucks and Texas Off-Road Ruckus events, infield parking will be extremely limited for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 race weekend. Infield parking spots will fill quickly and once full you will be directed to the bus lot, outside of the South Tunnel adjacent to Highway 114. A tram service will transport media from the lot to the media center. For those with reserved parking, you will be able to access the infield even when it is full. Below are the hours of the tram service.
Thursday: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday: 5:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. (approximately)
Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. (approximately)
ON THE FAST TRACK: Fourteen Verizon IndyCar drivers representing eight organizations got an early preview of the repaved and re-profiled 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval on April 12 during a one-day open test session.
The drivers were on hand to gather data and information on the new track surface as well as the re-profiling of Turns 1 & 2, where the banking was reduced from 24 to 20 degrees and the racing surface expanded from 60 to 80 feet.
The group completed an unofficial total of 2,240 laps in the test with defending series champion Simon Pagenaud leading all drivers with 214 laps. The teams found out that the track will be ultra-fast on the new surface and potentially have four- or five-wide racing in Turns 1 and 2.
Scott Dixon recorded the fastest laps in both sessions of the roughly 5½-hour test. He ran a top lap in Session 1 of 219.362 miles per hour and later topped that in the afternoon with a lap of 220.432 mph. Both laps easily surpassed last year’s pole-winning speed of 217.137 miles per hour at Texas by Carlos Munoz.
“I’m very happy that INDYCAR decided to come over here and have this opportunity to try different aerodynamics so that we can simulate some of the races,” Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves said during the test. “And when we go back here for the actual race, we’ll not only have a show for the drivers but especially the fans and everyone else.”
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole position for April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 the week prior to the test with a lap of 198.405 miles per hour. The 14 drivers that turned laps in the second session topped Harvick’s winning pole speed by at least 10 miles per hour with the top lap by Dixon (220.432 mph) being more than 22 miles per hour faster.
DOMINANT: Team Penske, one of the most dominant teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series, has a stranglehold on the competition when it comes to racing at Texas Motor Speedway. The organization, led by legendary car owner Roger Penske, has proven to be the king of the Lone Star State.
Here’s a look at how well the organization has fared over the years at Texas Motor Speedway:
6 – Pole positions, which includes three consecutive from Will Power (above) from 2013 – 15.
6.5 – Average finish for Team Penske drivers.
8 – Wins, the most among Verizon IndyCar Series teams. The victories consist of four from Helio Castroneves (2004 fall race, ’06, ’09, ’13) and one each from Sam Hornish Jr. (2007), Ryan Briscoe (2010), Gil de Ferran (2003 fall) and Will Power (2011-Twin 2).
11 – Races all Team Penske entries have finishes in the top 10. Team Penske has fielded two or more entries in 19 races since 2002.
23 – Top-five finishes accumulated by eight Team Penske drivers that have competed at Texas Motor Speedway.
1,080 – Laps led by Team Penske drivers out of a possible 3,940. That translates into Team Penske drivers leading 27 percent of the time during that span.
PARITY REIGNS AT TEXAS: From 2006 to 2011, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing dominated at Texas Motor Speedway by one or the other winning every Verizon IndyCar Series race at the venue. Penske won five races while Ganassi won two in that span that included a doubleheader race in 2011.
Both teams have won since at Texas but no longer dominant. In fact, five different teams have won since 2012 and the winners has annually alternated from smaller organizations to the powerhouses.
The trend began in 2012 with Justin Wilson capturing a victory for Dale Coyne Racing. Team Penske earned its series-best eighth career win at Texas with Helio Castroneves in 2013 and Ed Carpenter followed in 2014 with a win for his own team. Chip Ganassi got on the board in 2015 with Scott Dixon and then Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing won the closest race in speedway history last season.
If that trend continues in Saturday night’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600, look for a return of a powerhouse organization to Victory Lane.
PLENTY OF MILK, BUT NO COWBOY HATS: Andretti Autosport recently has been a dominant force in the Indy 500 — winning three of the last four including this year’s running with Takuma Sato — but the organization has struggled to find Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
Andretti Autosport has just one win at Texas, that coming in the 2004 Bombardier Learjet 500k with Tony Kanaan under the former Andretti/Green banner. The team’s current stable of drivers — Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi and Sato — don’t have a career win at Texas but have had some success.
Hunter-Reay has the best career finish among the group with a runner-up finish in 2013, but has not recorded a top-10 at Texas since that performance. Andretti has a best finish of third in 2010 and four top-five efforts in 12 career starts. Sato has a fifth-place finish in the first race of the 2011 doubleheader while he was with KV Racing, but that is his only top-10 effort in eight career starts. Rossi has made only one start, that coming in last year’s race when he finished 11th.
GOING FOR THREE IN A ROW: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal won last year’s race in dramatic fashion to earn his first victory at Texas Motor Speedway. He made a last-lap pass of leader James Hinchcliffe to win by 0.0080 of a second, the closest race in Texas Motor Speedway history and the fifth closest in Indy-car history.
This weekend he comes into the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 as the hottest driver in the series after winning both races in Detroit last weekend. The victories vaulted him to sixth in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, just eight points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. He arrives at Texas looking to defend his title and also win his third consecutive race. The last VICS driver to win three consecutive races was Simon Pagenaud, who did so last year en route to the series championship.
In case you were wondering, the Indy-car record for consecutive wins is seven, held by the legend A.J. Foyt who did so in 1964. Including Foyt’s record mark, there have only been nine drivers to win four or more consecutive races in the history of the sport. Winning three consecutive races has happened 34 times in series history.
PUMPING IRON: Scott Dixon recently moved into second place on the Indy-car “Ironman” consecutive starts list surpassing Jimmy Vasser, who started 211 consecutive races from 1993-2006.
Dixon, broke the tie with Vasser at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, has upped his total to 215 after competing in the doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle after his crash at the Indianapolis 500 just a few days before.
“It’s very cool to have the longevity,” Dixon said. “The sport has changed so much through the years. You only get this kind of longevity if you’re posting the results, so it’s pretty cool.”
Now firmly entrenched in second place, Dixon has his sights set to surpass the leader of this list who happens to be his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan.
Kanaan holds the all-time record with 273 consecutive starts ,which began in 2001.
“Obviously, I’m going to need TK to stop racing here quickly to maybe have a shot at the most all-time,” Dixon said.
Kanaan, however, doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
“For me, it’s a cool stat,” Kanaan said. “Every race weekend we start a race, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, one more. Just keep making (it) harder for people to beat you.’”
VAUTIER TO REPLACE BOURDAIS AT TEXAS: With former Formula One driver Esteban Gutierrez not cleared to compete on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval for Saturday night’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600, Dale Coyne Racing has named Tristan Vautier as a one-race replacement for the injured Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18 entry.
Vautier, the 2012 Indy Lights series champion, is quite familiar with Dale Coyne Racing, having made 11 of his 30 career Verizon IndyCar Series starts with the organization. He will team with rookie Ed Jones at Texas while Bourdais continues to recuperate from injuries sustained May 20 from an Indy 500 qualifying accident.
Vautier’s tenure with Dale Coyne Racing came in 2015 when competed in the final 11 races of the season and recorded a top finish of fourth in the second race of the Belle Isle Park weekend in Detroit.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back in an Indy car and race for Dale again,” said Vautier, a 27-year-old Frenchman. “But before talking about me stepping in, let’s all keep sending our thoughts to Seb for a quick recovery. I was happy to see him at the track at Indy on race day. I have big shoes to fill!
“That being said, I really can’t wait to be in the car on Friday and see how it feels that first lap around. It’s not the easiest place to step back in and practice is going to be very limited, but the team has been competitive everywhere and I trust we’ll be good.”
Vautier will be the third driver to substitute for Bourdais in as many weeks. The first was Australian James Davison, who drove to a 20th-place finish in the Indy 500 on May 28. Gutierrez, the 25-year-old Mexican who drove for Haas F1, made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at last weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader and finished of 19th and 14th, respectively.
“We chose Tristan to fill the (No.) 18 seat at Texas because of his previous experience at Texas Motor Speedway,” Coyne said. “We think he can help the team and Ed, who has never raced or even tested there. Tristan has remained close with the team and he’s always done a good job for us. I expect much of the same going into this race weekend.”
Vautier has made two starts at Texas Motor Speedway, one in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and another in 2015 with Coyne. In 2013, he started 24th and finished 18th. In 2015, he started 16th and finished 20th.
He has been driving this season for SunEnergy1 Racing in GTD class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship.
Vautier will make his first appearance on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval at 10 a.m. CT Friday during the opening 75-minute practice.
CHAVES RETURNS TO TEXAS FOR HARDING RACING: After his ninth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500, Gabby Chaves will be back behind the wheel of Harding Racing’s No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend.
“We went into Indy with the mentality that if we got out there clean, we would try to run Texas and Pocono,” Team manager and competition director Larry Curry said. “And we definitely got out of there clean.
“We were just all elated that we had the run that we had. For a new team, you figure we started putting these cars together in January. Built two brand-new cars, went down and did a little shakedown test in Texas and then came to Indy and came home with a ninth-place finish.”
The plan for Harding Racing going forward, according to Curry, is to join the series full-time beginning next season with Chaves behind the wheel. Chaves is currently under a two-year contract agreement with Harding Racing.
Chaves has 24 Verizon IndyCar Series career starts, with his only full-time season in 2015 when he competed for BHA with Curb-Agajanian and was named rookie of the year. He has two career starts at Texas and finished a career-best 10th in 2015.
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION: Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday as a guest of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter. It might seem odd that a Butler fan (Carpenter) would invite a former Indiana Hoosier basketball player to come out to the track, but they are both graduates of Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis. Ferrell will be at Carpenter’s garage at 12:15 p.m. and media are invited to attend.
Ferrell enjoyed a solid first season with the Mavericks in 2016-17 as he joined the team at mid-season. He averaged a career-high 11.3 points and 4.3 assists per game as he took over the starting point guard duties for the team. Carpenter is the owner of his own race team where he drives the oval races. He won at Texas in 2014.
CONOR DALY TO VISIT COOK CHILDREN’S: Verizon IndyCar Series driver and Racing For Kids representative Conor Daly will visit youngsters at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday leading up to the Rainguard Water Sealers 600. Daly will visit children in the Child Life Zone and hand out Racing For Kids caps and coloring books, sign autographs, pose for photos and talk about his passion for racing. Cook Children’s Medical Center is located at 801 Seventh Avenue in Fort Worth.
Racing For Kids is a national charity that uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public awareness and funding on the health care needs of children. Founded in 1989, Racing For Kids has visited more than 30,000 children in more than 600 children’s hospitals around the world. It has raised more than $6.5 million for the hospitals visited and other children’s health institutions.
NO LIMITS ONLINE AUCTION: Join the Texas Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities for an incredible online auction that includes Verizon IndyCar Series and NASCAR Memorabilia plus one-of-a-kind experiences at Texas Motor Speedway.
The online auction is currently underway and bidding goes through 10 p.m. Friday. The auction site is at http://speedwaytx17.auction-bid.org or you can text SPEEDWAYTX17 to 24700 to bid on an item.
The following are just some of the unique items that are available for auction.
· Justin Wilson Autographed Green Flag (2015)
· Will Power & Dario Franchitti Autographed Green Flag
· Firestone 600 (2016) Sign Autographed by Graham Rahal
· Several autographed hats
· Fuzzy’s Vodka IndyCar Piece
· Champagne Toast Tickets
· Speedway Club Table for a Day for 2
· Two-Seater Indy-car Ride
· Victory Lane Experience
· Wave The Green Flag for NCWTS Qualifying
· Ride in the Official Pace Car
· A.J. Foyt Meet & Greet
RAINGUARD WATER SEALERS 600 NOTEBOOK
• The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 will be the 29th Indy car event conducted at Texas Motor Speedway since the track opened in 1997. TMS hosted two races a year from 1998-2004 and featured a doubleheader event in 2011.
• Six drivers have won the Texas race from the pole: Sam Hornish Jr. (2001 fall race), Gil de Ferran (2003 fall), Helio Castroneves (2004 fall), Tomas Scheckter (2005), Scott Dixon (2008) and Ryan Briscoe (2010).
• Drivers that have won at Texas have gone on to win the Verizon IndyCar Series championship six times: Sam Hornish Jr. (fall races of 2001 and ’02), Tony Kanaan (June race of 2004), Scott Dixon (2008, ’15) and Dario Franchitti (2011 Race 1 of doubleheader).
• Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 274th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy-car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 215 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy-car racing.
• Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 336th career Indy-car start, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 335th Indy-car start, which is fifth all-time. Both are competing in their 20th season of Indy-car racing in 2017.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): “Texas is one of my favorite ovals. It’s been repaved, so it’s going to be quite a different race this year. The tire degradation has changed so it’s a bit of an unknown going into it, but it’s going to be interesting. I’ve been very comfortable on ovals this year, so I’m looking forward to racing there in the No. 1 DXC Technology Chevrolet. It’s a great event with a great marketplace for INDYCAR as well. I’m looking forward to another night race which is always fun for the fans.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack / Bobby Rahal Automotive Honda, 2016 Rainguard Water Sealers 600 winner): “It’s great to head to Texas not only as defending race winner, but also after a great weekend in Detroit. Those wins put us back in the championship fight, and we want to continue the momentum, obviously. I’m excited about Texas. We had a good test there in April, so hopefully we can get another victory there and keep this string going. I think it’s going to be a crazy race. Honda has been working hard and it shows. We hope to put them in victory lane again.” (About last year’s win:) “It was a good day, obviously, and a very, very competitive race. It was also challenging. As much as went for us, went against us, and there were a lot of things we had to battle through, but overall, it was a very special day. To get a win and cap what was somewhat of a difficult season off that way felt great. Those are some special memories for me. My grandmother passed away that day, so there was a lot going through my mind afterward. I didn’t know it at the time. Texas Motor Speedway is an exciting place. I’m looking forward to going back and hopefully getting another victory.” (About his TMS bobblehead:) “I’m pretty geeked. It’s pretty cool. I’m thankful to (TMS president) Eddie (Gossage), Ziz (TMS vice president of communications Mike Zizzo) and everybody at TMS for making it happen for me. It’s a pretty cool opportunity. I will enjoy it while I can and certainly get a lot of ‘you know what’ from my wife and family but I’m going to enjoy it, that’s for sure.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It is always great to go back to Texas. I can’t wait to see what type of race we will put on with the new layout. I am sure that it won’t disappoint. It will be an important race for the team to regain some momentum and get back on top.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Detroit was a bittersweet weekend for us with the podium on Saturday and the DNF on Sunday. We’re heading back to Texas, where we were very quick last year. It was definitely tough to lose the race by such a small margin after leading so many laps, but that’s the nature of 1.5-mile oval racing. Obviously, the track has been completely repaved and re-profiled in Turns 1 and 2, so really everything goes out the window from last year, and we’ve got to start from scratch just like everybody else. Hopefully we can put our heads down and get the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car in a position to be fighting for the victory again.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Texas can be a really fun event. It’s our second night race of the season, and it’s a fun event for fans. We had a pretty good car at Indianapolis but after we were wrecked, our race ended early. It was really disappointing, but we learned a lot that we’ll apply to the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet this weekend, and we know we’re bringing a really strong car the whole team can’t wait to race.”