This year's Firestone 550k at Texas Motor Speedway was not one of the best shows put on by the DW-12 chassis, and that is saying a lot because the DW-12 has made some of the best racing out there since it was introduced at St. Petersburg last year.
The downforce reductions that INDYCAR imposed this past weekend was a bit of a continuation of last years plan to reduce downforce in order to break up the notorious pack racing that had become the norm on the high banked 1.5 mile ovals and produced catastrophic results at Las Vegas in 2011. The changes worked last year, and Texas was one of the best races of the season let alone at Texas Motor Speedway in general.
There was a bit of confusion about the changes that were made. Justin Wilson said in a teleconference earlier this week that about 300 pounds of downforce was taken from the cars, but in a press conference after qualifying, INDYCAR VP of Public Relations and Communications Amy Konrath said that it was a reduction in drag. Any way you look at it, changes resulted in a not so good race.
At the end of the night, Helio Castroneves and his Penske Racing crew had the best tire strategy pitting one less time than his rivals.
The race once again lacked pack racing but also lacked the passing that made last years race great. The lack of downforce resulted in the cars having much less grip which led to drivers fighting the car rather than racing each other.
The feelings of the drivers throughout the weekend were pretty mixed. Will Power said after qualifying that it felt very close to last year's package. After the race, however, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay both were vocal about the lack of grip.
"When you don't have the downforce or the tires, it does not want to get into the corner at all, because you're going in and the rear so you're coming around, and then when you're leaving the banking," said Hunter-Reay in a post race press conference. "The car does not want to come up out of the bank. Once it does, the rear just snaps loose, and I had some major ones, corrections; I'm sure everybody did tonight."
Then again, a race does not have to have a close finish in order to be a good race. The long green flag runs made the race more like a Formula 1 race in terms of strategy. Everyone had to manage their tires and it came down to who managed their tires the best and who had the best strategy so from that standpoint, it was an interesting race.
Bottom line, the package that worked in last year's race didn't need to be fiddled with, but we got what we got and that is racing for you.