Thursday, June 9, 2016

Track Walk: Texas 2016

The second half of the IndyCar season begins at Texas
Time: Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday June 11th. Green flag at 8:35 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Brian Till will be lead commentator (Leigh Diffey is on Formula One duty) and Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy join Till in the booth. Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Kate Hargritt and Robin Miller will work the pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice- 12:00-1:15 p.m. ET (75 minutes). NBCSN will have live coverage of this session.
Qualifying- 4:15 p.m. ET. NBCSN will show this session tape-delayed at 6:00 p.m. ET. 
Final Practice- 7:45-8:15 p.m. ET (30 minutes).
Race- 8:35 p.m. ET (248 laps).

Will There Be An Eighth Different Winner?
Seven different drivers have won the last seven Texas races. Three of those drivers will not be in the field on Saturday night. Ryan Briscoe won at Texas in 2010 and has since moved on to compete for the factory Ford GT program in IMSA and will be at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Dario Franchitti won one of the two Texas races held in 2011 and has been retired since the end of 2013 after his accident at Houston. The late Justin Wilson took a surprise victory in 2012, the only oval victory of his career.

Will Power split the Twin-275s held at Texas in 2011 with Dario Franchitti and Power is coming off a victory at Belle Isle on Sunday. Power is looking to win successive races for the first time since the end of 2013 when he won at Houston and the season finale at Fontana. Power has won the last three pole positions at Texas Motor Speedway and he is tied with Tomas Scheckter for most pole-positions at Texas. Power finished four laps down last year in 13th after getting the set up wrong during the race. Power had five consecutive top ten finishes at Texas prior to last year's race.

Hélio Castroneves appeared to be on his way to ending a two-year winless drought at Belle Isle before the Brazilian was caught out by a caution while leading and still needing to make his final pit stop. Castroneves is the all-time lead in IndyCar victories at Texas Motor Speedway with four and has 14 top tens in 18 Texas starts. Castroneves has also led 499 laps at Texas, the most all-time. Castroneves' 2013 victory at Texas is his his oval victory during the DW12-era.

Ed Carpenter won at Texas in 2014 and the oval-only driver returns for his third start of 2016. Carpenter has made the fourth most starts at Texas among active drivers at 14. However, Carpenter has only five top ten finishes at Texas and he has finished outside the top twenty four times at Texas, including a 22nd place finish last year after an engine failure. Carpenter has finished outside the top twenty in five of his last eight starts and has led only one lap in that span.

Scott Dixon's victory last year was his second at Texas in 16 starts. Dixon has the fourth best average finish all-time at Texas among IndyCar drivers that have made at least three starts at 7.0. His average starting position is 7.1, the eighth best among drivers with at least three starts. Dixon, Castroneves and Tony Kanaan are all tied for most podiums at Texas, each with seven.

Tony Kanaan will be one of the favorites to extend the streak to eight different winners in the last eight Texas races. Kanaan won at Texas in his third start at the track in the spring of 2004. The Brazilian has been running at the finish of all 16 of his Texas starts and he has completed 3,284 of a possible 3,287 laps. Kanaan finished second last year and led 57 laps.

Juan Pablo Montoya is another contender for the victory. The Colombian has finished third and fourth in his two Texas starts after qualifying fourth and fifth respectively in the two races. Montoya's teammate Simon Pagenaud has started three of his four Texas starts from inside the top ten but finished 11th last year after starting second and leading 59 laps.

Can Honda Replicate Indianapolis Success?
Honda relinquished its demons from the 99th Indianapolis 500 by scoring a 1-2 finish, winning pole position and leading 129 of 200 laps this year. Texas has not been kind to Honda in recent years as Chevrolet has won the last three races at Texas Motor Speedway and Chevrolet has scored 13 of 15 possible top five positions in that time frame. Honda has had only two lead-lap finishers in the last three Texas races.

Ryan Hunter-Reay led the most laps at the Indianapolis 500 and had it not been for contact with teammate Townsend Bell exiting the pit lane, Hunter-Reay would have been in contention for the victory in the closing laps of the race. Hunter-Reay finished second at Texas in 2013 when Chevrolet powered Andretti Autosport but in his other six starts at Texas with Andretti Autosport he has two top ten finishes and has four finishes of 18th or worse.

Marco Andretti is coming off his first top ten finish of the season with a ninth on Sunday at Belle Isle. Andretti finished in the top ten in five of the six oval races last season, including a fifth at Texas, the top Honda finisher, and a third at Fontana. Andretti had an accident while running at the top ten at Pocono last season.

Alexander Rossi and Carlos Muñoz are tied for the top Honda driver in the championship. Both have 242 points with Rossi holding fifth in the championship based on his Indianapolis 500 victory. Muñoz was the top Honda qualifier last year at Texas in fourth and finished sixth last year but Muñoz has yet to finish on the lead lap at Texas.

James Hinchcliffe has two top ten finishes in five Texas starts. The pole-sitter for the 100th Indianapolis 500 led 24 laps, the second most laps in the race. His Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin started 11th and finished seventh in his only IndyCar start at Texas in 2014. Aleshin has failed to finish in the top ten in the last seven races.

Outside of Graham Rahal's second place finish at Texas in 2012 after hitting the wall coming to the white flag while leading, his luck has been very poor at the 1.5-mile oval. His average starting position is 12.6 and his average finish is 15.2 despite Rahal qualifying within the first three rows on three occasions, including starting sixth last year.

If you thought Rahal's track record at Texas was horrible, Takuma Sato is much worse, averaging a starting position of 15.7 and finish of 15.6. Sato's teammate Jack Hawksworth's best finish in two Texas starts is 15th. Gabby Chaves finished tenth at Texas last year from 20th on the grid. Conor Daly will be making his Texas debut.

Fast Facts
This will be the 11th IndyCar race to take place on June 11th. The Twin-275s, won by Dario Franchitti and Will Power in 2011, were the last races held on June 11th.

Three drivers scored their first career victory at Texas: Billy Boat in spring of 1998, Mark Dismore in autumn of 1999 and Jeff Ward in spring of 2002. It was the only victory for all three drivers.

Honda is tied with Oldsmobile for most victories among engine manufactures at Texas with nine. Only two of Honda's nine Texas victories have come with competition from other manufactures.

The average starting position for Texas winners is 4.74 with a median of three. Only four of 27 Texas races have been won from outside the top ten. Justin Wilson won from 17th on the grid in 2012, the furthest back a Texas winner has started.

The average number of lead changes at Texas is 14 with a median of 14.

The average number of cautions at Texas is 4.29 with a median of four. The average number of caution laps is 33.59 with a median of 32.

Simon Pagenaud is attempting to become the first driver to win three consecutive pole positions since Will Power at Mid-Ohio, Sonoma and Baltimore in 2012.

Sébastien Bourdais has three consecutive top ten finishes. The last time he had four consecutive top ten finishes was from Sonoma to Houston in 2013.

Takuma Sato enters Texas with three top ten finishes from the first eight races. It is the first time Sato has had that many since 2013. He would score one top ten in the final 11 races that season.

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon needs to lead 12 laps to reach the 4,800 laps led milestone and he needs to lead 76 laps to pass Bobby Unser for sixth all-time in laps led.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 22 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 47 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 47 laps to reach the 2,500 laps led milestone.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 58 laps to reach the 1,500 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 49 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 96 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Tony Kanaan needs one podium to reach 75 career IndyCar podiums.

Ryan Hunter-Reay makes it eight different winners in the last eight Texas races. Tony Kanaan finishes in the top five. Marco Andretti starts and finishes in the top ten. Eight or fewer cars finish on the lead lap. Simon Pagenaud does not finish on the lead lap but finishes ahead of at least one teammate. Someone scores their first fastest lap of the season. Ed Carpenter Racing will lead at least 50 laps. Sleeper: Graham Rahal.