IndyCar tests new car at high-banked Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Will Power has certainly been good in the IndyCar Series' new car, winning three of the four races this season.
All of those were on road and street courses.
IndyCar drivers are preparing for their first race on an oval since Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas in last October's season finale. And for the Indianapolis 500, they will have more flexibility on how they want to set up their new cars.
"What we're trying to do is try to ensure that it's not a pack race like it has been in the past, and like it was in Vegas,'' Power said Monday, when the series points leader was part of a 10-car open test at Texas Motor Speedway.
Wheldon was killed when his car sailed into the fence in a 15-car accident, and his head hit on a post in the fence. A report later determined that pack racing on a high-banked oval contributed to the accident.
Texas was the IndyCar's first open test on a 1 1/2-mile track since Wheldon's accident. The Indianapolis 500 is next on the schedule, the first of four IndyCar oval races in a five-week span.
Texas, which hosts the series on June 9, is a high-banked oval like the Las Vegas track also owned by Bruton Smith.
"There's always concern, especially after what happened in Vegas,'' Scott Dixon said.
But Dixon said he isn't worried about racing on the high-banked ovals "as long as we come to these places and everybody gets together as a group'' to determine how to create a little bit of separation on the track.
Along with less downforce on the new cars, teams are also being given more individual setup options.
"Going back to the fact that I think the car has a lot of range of options, I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest,'' Dixon said. "We have options. It's not like the previous, where we were sort of locked in and backed into a corner.''
When there are limited options, cars will often be more similar and make it harder for them to get away from each other.
Power was happy to have the Texas test, and the chance to drive the new car on an oval before getting the 2 1/2-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It's felt pretty good, pretty solid,'' Power said.
Dixon had the fastest of the 1,172 combined laps at 212.371 mph. During the Texas twin races last June, the fastest lap was 216.263 mph.
Only five of the 16 races this season will be on ovals in IndyCar, which used to be an all-oval series.
"I feel that the entire community of IndyCar Series has been working together so that we spend time thinking properly so that when we go back next year, we can attack the ovals the way in the past used to be,'' said three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who has also won three times at Texas. "And most important, safe for us, and have a great show for the fans as well. But right not, it's a big question mark.''
Castroneves even moved his index finger in the shape of a question mark on the desk in front of him. But he also said he believed everybody was working together to have great races.
Ryan Briscoe, one of three drivers that was part of a closed IndyCar test at Texas earlier this year, also took part in Monday's test that ended with some packs of four cars running together.
"All this testing is really aimed at the style of racing and make sure we don't come back and have everyone just running easy wide open,'' Briscoe said. "You want to have to actually set the thing up and drive it, and not anybody with any car just do it easily.
"That's how it was in Vegas, anyone could run fast,'' he said. "It wasn't challenging, and you forgot you were doing 220 mph with cars on all corners of you. ... We've definitely gone away from that.''
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