Texas 2018 Review: Passing. Happens.
Texas was a good race. I’m not even going to beat around the bush – the race last night was great. It had drivers making moves. It had strategery with pit stops and tire wear. It even had fire! After getting approximately five hours of sleep (we taped our Race Report right after the race, stay tuned it will come out on Wednesday I’m ready to talk about some of the big things I took away after Texas including: you can pass in this car, AJ Foyt Racing needs a new slogan, Veterans + Rookies, and of course Scott “GOAT” Dixon.
It seems this past season people have continued to complain that we’re not having a lot of passing. Are people high when they watch IndyCar races? We have seen passing and drivers making moves in every single race this season. This race was no exception there were 686 on-track passes. Drivers were moving. Before he brushed the wall, Zach Veach was making quite a charge up through the field, challenging his more veteran teammates at times. Graham Rahal may have heard Internet rumblings about his recent five-year extension on his contract and moved up fourteen spots to finish sixth. At the end of the race we saw a real battle for second place between Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud that continued for quite a few laps. I believe a replay of Rossi tucking in behind Pagenaud only to swing out and attempt to pass for at least five laps shows: that you can get close in this new aero kit. You can have close passing, if you have two drivers who know what they’re doing. Rossi gave a very strong attack on Pagenaud, and Pagenaud of course was expertly defending that position. That is what IndyCar racing will look like as teams and drivers continue to get more comfortable with this car. Apologies to Tony Kanaan, but Texas did not go from “pack race to no-passing race”. This was a hell of an action-packed race.
Speaking of Tony Kanaan…officially we need a moratorium on people saying that Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist are “turning around” AJ Foyt Racing. They are not. In this race, Leist’s car caught on fire. Not just a little fire. Not just a fire in the pit stall that may be attributed to an issue with the fuel probe. His car slowed down and turned into an inferno on Lap 8. Lap 33 ended the race for second Foyt car when Tony Kanaan kissed the wall around Turn 2 and ended up with a suspension issue. Overall this season, Foyt racing has had three Top 10 drivers, and four drivers DNF. I’m not saying that’s better or worst then other teams, though you can clearly find teams who are doing much better, I’m just saying those are not statistics of a team that is not being “turned around”. Much like we’re all done with replays of crashes from 2017, we should also be done with this statement.
I indicated that Texas was going to be hell on Rookies what I did not expect was for Rookies to be caught up in Veteran mistakes and get crashed out. Three out of four rookies got taken out this race. Aside from Leist’s fire, Robert Wickens was taken out by Ed Carpenter and Zachary Claman De Melo was taken out by Will Power. Interestingly enough, both crashes seemed to mirror each other. The rookies were on the higher line and the veterans just crept up and pushed the rookies into the wall. Ed readily accepted blame in the accident indicating he did not give Wickens room and should have. Will’s crash is slightly more bizarre in that the Timing/Scoring stand was over the frequency with Will and he didn’t hear his spotter until too late. So the track took out three out of the four rookies (Zach Veach brushed the wall and survived that incident unscathed). However, two of the long-standing drivers in the series didn’t mealy-mouth and step up to take the blame for the incidents. This speaks highly of our sport, and I appreciate that instead of blame games that can happen after races.
One more veteran to speak of. Scott Dixon. Clenching a win in Texas, doing Dixon things to get to the front, and now is third in overall wins with forty-three wins to his name. He’s closing in on Mario Andretti’s fifty-two wins, and quite honestly A.J. Foyt’s sixty-seven wins may be attainable. A lot of people speak of a “slow burn” when discussing Dixon’s season and his march towards championship contention. Looking at this season though, aside from an eleventh place finish at Long Beach he’s been in the top ten every race. In fact, he’s primarily in the top five except for the Long Beach eleventh, a sixth place finish in St. Petersburg, and a sixth place finish at Alabama. It’s not really a slow burn, he’s just one of those drivers you expect will be on the podium and when he’s not you’re just confused. The Verizon IndyCar Series goes to Road America in two weeks…where Scott Dixon just happens to have won that race last year.
As a closing comment: we will be setting up an anti-haunting/cursing of the #5 car. Please let me know if you’re interested in joining. It will be a non-denominational service.