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IndyCar: DXC Technology 600 Preview

Will Power and Simon Pagenaud lead the field into Turn 1 during the early stages of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. [Photo by: Chris Owens]

Will Power and Simon Pagenaud lead the field into Turn 1 during the early stages of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. [Photo by: Chris Owens]

by Paul Gohde

The fast but ever scary 1.5-mile banked speedways have all but disappeared from the IndyCar schedule over the years. Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Motegi and others are gone, and many are glad for it. But one remains, Texas Motor Speedway, and the Verizon series will test its competitive juices Saturday night in the DXC Technology 600; Race 9 of 17 on the 2018 schedule.

RACE FACTS: This will be the thirtieth Indy car race held at TMS since the Ft. Worth track opened in 1997. It will run for 248 laps (360.84 miles) over the 1.5-mile banked oval which has been reworked several times since it was built. Scott Dixon set the race speed record in 2015 (191.940 mph) while Charlie Kimball holds the one-lap mark set last year in qualifying (222.747 mph). Tony Kanaan set the in-race lap record in 2017 with a lap at 224.594 mph.

PAST RACES: Arie Luyendyk captured the 1997 inaugural but Helio Castroneves has the most wins (4) and Team Penske has visited Eddie Gossage’s victory lane nine times in the past 15 years. Will Power won for Penske-Chevrolet last year over Kanaan in a race that featured 23 lead changes among seven drivers. Power led 180/248 laps but took the checkered flag under yellow after a four-car incident involving a battle for second-place between Takuma Sato and Dixon. Kanaan managed to finish second despite a twenty-second penalty for triggering a nine-car incident on lap 152.

2018 SEASON SO FAR: After his Indy 500 win last month, coupled with two top-10 finishes at Detroit, Will Power leads the points chase (2 wins, 309 points) over runner-up Dixon (1, -5). Alexander Rossi is third (1, -11) followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay (1, -31) and Josef Newgarden (2, -39). Sebastien Bourdais is ninth but has the other season’s win. Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon won at Belle Isle last week. The next Verizon race after Texas will be the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on June 25.

THE FIELD: The usual 22 oval track teams will do battle Saturday as Ed Carpenter returns for his Fuzzy’s Vodka group while Zachary Claman De Melo is back for Dale Coyne. Four rookies will make their IndyCar debut at Texas: Matheus Leist, Robert Wickens, Zach Veach and De Melo. Veteran Spencer Pigot will also compete in an Indy car here for the first time. The Juncos team is skipping the Texas oval.

NOTES: TV: NBCSN, Qualifying- Friday, 4:00pm ET-Live/ Race-Saturday, 8:00pm ET- Live…Texas is the third of six ovals on the Verizon schedule. Iowa, Pocono and Gateway remain to be run…Team Penske-Chevrolet has won both oval events (Phoenix and Indy) so far…A record 78 laps were run under caution at Texas in 1999…One year ago Dixon was the points leader at this point by eight over Helio Castroneves…Texas held two Indy car races each year from 1998-2003. A single day doubleheader was also run there in 2011.

OUR TAKE: Anything can happen in a high-speed race at Texas. Leaders often get caught-up in other driver’s incidents and leaders quickly become non-winners. Team Penske Chevrolet has been dominant here and is a likely choice to win having captured both oval events so far. Tony Kanaan has been consistent at Texas over the years and would love to bring AJ Foyt a win in his home state. But…I’m not sure there is another winning possibility unless the unexpected happens. Aero will be important here on the speedy, high G-force oval, as the 2018 package continues to be tweaked race-to-race. Perhaps a Honda-powered team will hit on the right set-up and someone like Sebastien Bourdais or Scott Dixon will come to the front. We’ll see.

FINAL WORDS: Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet): “Texas is actually my highest average finish of all the tracks that I’ve been to. I’ve finished on the podium nine times there…We may bring to AJ the big Texas win there…I don’t know why I’ve done well there. They’ve changed the layout of the track (several times) too…Look at Indy and those types of ovals, the mile and a half’s and the two miles are something I probably understand a little bit better. I enjoy it a lot.”

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”