Monday, September 5, 2011

Foyt diary: Cool heads prevailed at Firestone Twin 275s

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Firestone Twin 275s were run on a hot summer night in Texas, but the racing was cool-headed. For all of the predictions that it was going to be a crazy Saturday night, the drivers didn't do anything stupid.

  • A.J. Foyt watches the Firestone Twin 275 IndyCar Series Races at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday.

    By Sharon Ellman, AP

    A.J. Foyt watches the Firestone Twin 275 IndyCar Series Races at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday.

By Sharon Ellman, AP

A.J. Foyt watches the Firestone Twin 275 IndyCar Series Races at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday.

We had a pretty good weekend at Texas Motor Speedway with our ABC Supply team. Vitor Meira qualified towards the top end of the 30-car field — 12th, our best start there in several years. He ran in the top-10 for the entire first race, finishing eighth. If it hadn't been for a couple of lapped cars racing him in the final 10 laps, he may have finished in the top five in the ABC Supply car.

The race had one accident involving two rookies with about 15 laps to go — no one was hurt, but it set up a dash for cash at the end. That's where I thought Vitor had a chance at a top five because he'd gotten a pretty good restart, but a couple of lapped cars messed him up (and they weren't even racing each other because they were on different laps).

The second race didn't go quite as well. Vitor started seventh but in seven laps, he was back to 14th! He had to lift to avoid hitting some cars that weren't handling at the start. And when I say lift, I mean foot off the throttle — to the tune of running 190 mph when others were running 211. He got back in front of some of the cars, but the No. 14 just didn't have the straightaway speed. Vitor said it handled fine — picked up a little push which we corrected by adding some front wing. He finished 11th in the race — the first to go caution-free at Texas!

I know it's hard to believe you could get 30 IndyCar drivers to run non-stop in a race anywhere, much less at Texas, which has been known to have some spectacular accidents. In fact, Davey Hamilton made his return to the track after his terrible accident 10 years ago where he suffered really bad foot injuries. We've been known to compare scars, but Davey had a lot more surgeries than I did, so it's good to see him walking around. He didn't have a great night, but he brought it home in one piece so, as he knows better than anyone, it could have been much worse.

The starting grid for the second race was set by a blind draw, which might be appealing to the fans, but I think it's a problem because the entertainment is outweighing the sport.

And it's flawed. It wasn't as "blind" as it should have been.

In a nod to television, the draw was set up to look good on TV. With 30 positions up for grabs, there were 10 poles with three Firestone tires each set up on a stage at the start finish line. On the flip side of each tire was a number. Starting with the driver who finished last in race 1, the drivers picked a tire and spun it around to see where they were starting. It reminded me of that TV game show Let's Make a Deal. And I wondered if some had.

The problem was that the blackout curtain behind the tires blew different ways showing some of the numbers before they were picked — according to a reliable source. I won't say which numbers were able to be seen — just in case the drivers picked them honestly — but my source doesn't think so. And here's an irony for you: the Penske drivers managed to pick each other's car numbers! Yep, Will Power started 3rd, Helio Castroneves started 6th and Ryan Briscoe started 12th. The one who really lost out was Dario Franchitti— he had to start 28th. As the winner of the first race, he didn't even get to pick a number — he got what was left. But he did a helluva job to finish seventh.

So while I like the idea of making the race more entertaining for the fans, I think an inverted start of the first race's finish would make the second race entertaining and fair. Well at least more fair. I don't think they should start where they finished like they did in the old days — that would be boring and it's also the reason they had so many drivers win both races back in the late 60s and 70s. Nope, I think an inverted start is the way to go if they keep the twin race format.

I liked the twin race format, but that second race went off way past my bedtime! And then to get out of the track and back to my hotel took me 30 minutes (it should have taken two) because of the way the cops were directing traffic with all of the one-way roads and blocked exits. I was tired and getting more frustrated by the mile, but I did make it back.

We head to Milwaukee this weekend, but first we are stopping by our sponsor's headquarters in Beloit, Wisconsin for the annual Founders Day Celebration picnic on Thursday. ABC Supply takes really good care of its employees from what I can see. In fact, they bought tickets for 850 of them to attend the race! So we'll have a lot of people cheering for us on Sunday.

If you can't go to the Milwaukee Mile, tune in at 3:30 p.m. ET to ABC. Those double-file restarts on a one-mile track should be very entertaining — and I hope the drivers are as cool-headed in the daytime as they were last Saturday night!

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