Dallas Motorsports: Firestone Twin 275s

Eddie Gossage, Graham Rahal: No TMS danger

March, 6, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Although any notion of a June boycott by IndyCar Series drivers had already been extinguished, it still was a hot topic during Texas Motor Speedway's media day Tuesday.

Track president Eddie Gossage said he hadn't heard from any drivers about safety concerns, specifically the fencing around the high-banked oval. And that's why he reacted angrily after reading about such concerns on a web site report last week.

Gossage remained defensive of the track's safety record Tuesday, adding that he's already talked to IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard.

"We're going to do what's right," Gossage said. "You never compromise safety. ... We're the only people that have had any engineers look at it. I think everybody has a better handle on it. They say they never talked about a boycott. ... I just know what I read."

Gossage also was quick to point out that last year's Firestone Twin 275 races only had one caution.

"I don't know why a speedway that had two races with one caution last year was suddenly the target," Gossage said.

Safety issues became paramount after driver Dan Wheldon died during a horrific crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. Wheldon's car went airborne during the accident and the driver's head hit a pole on the fencing, which is similar to that used at TMS.

"Safety is not something to joke about. Safety is not something to take lightly. And we're not about to," Gossage said. "It's coming on the heels of a really catastrophic event ... and everybody is ultrasensitive to it.

"You can have emotional feelings about it, but the solution is a fact-based solution. I'm emotional about Dan because I cared a lot about Dan. He was a good guy, a good friend, everything about him ... and it was so tragic. But when you start talking about 'now what,' that has to be based solely on facts. Solely."

IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal, who was at the track Tuesday, said there are no safety concerns at TMS, which has hosted 23 IndyCar races since 1997 -- 16 of which have been decided by less than one second.

"It's never been something that crossed my mind," Rahal said. "Texas has always put on close races. Does that make a driver more nervous? Yeah, but it would make anybody more nervous. We realize that our sport is two things: Obviously to go fast in race cars, and it's also entertainment. The fans like to see close racing.

"The show we put on here is second to none," Rahal said. "We want to be here."

Top moment: How about Smoke vs. Carl?

December, 27, 2011
What an amazing year, unquestionably the biggest year in sports for Dallas-Fort Worth ever! No community in America has likely ever had a year in sports like the one we just enjoyed in 2011.

The Mavs won the NBA world championship. TCU won the Rose Bowl. A Baylor football player -- RGIII -- won the Heisman Trophy. The Rangers played in the World Series. The Super Bowl was played here. Two PGA golf tournaments were played here. Two NASCAR races were run and twin IndyCar races were held in the same night. High school sports gave us unlimited stories of success and failure, opportunities and created memories for a lifetime. The Sporting news named us the nation's top sports city!

As you try to wrap your arms around the most amazing year any city has enjoyed in sports, I would argue that the greatest individual performance by any athlete occurred here at Texas Motor Speedway in November when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards began an emotional three-race battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Stewart won here at TMS while Edwards, the points leader, finished second. One week later in Phoenix, Edwards finished second and Stewart third. In the season finale at Homestead, Stewart's stubborn competitive drive proved too much as he won the race with Edwards finishing a close second. The two ended the season tied in the points standings. A tiebreaker -- the driver with the most wins -- gave Stewart his third championship.

What more can you ask for in sports? And it all started right here.

Why do we watch sports? To see competitors win or lose. To see who has the strongest will. To find out who will refuse to lose. To see who is the most determined. To see who has the most grit. To see who can conquer their own fears and insecurities. To see who is mentally tough. TO SEE WHO HAS THE BIGGEST HEART.

In a sport that must blend man and machine, the big, strong, determined heart that beats in Tony Stewart's chest was bigger than the 600 horsepower engine in Edwards' car. Stewart's will won out. And that come-from-behind run in the final three races of the season started right here at Texas Motor Speedway. All that is good in sports was on display right here that day in November.

As you consider a remarkable year in sports for Dallas-Fort Worth, I wanted to remind you that Stewart and Edwards shined in the purest of ways that day. Fittingly, a simple race between two tough men was beautiful in the most graceful of ways.

It may well be the highlight of the greatest year in sports for Dallas-Fort Worth. Ever.

IndyCar returning to single-race format at TMS

December, 22, 2011
IndyCar will return to Texas Motor Speedway for the 16th consecutive season on June 9, 2012, reverting to a single-race format with the Firestone 550.

TMS experimented with the Firestone Twin 275s last season, with two full-field races that each carried half the points and purse. It was the first time IndyCar used the format.

"We ran twin races this year, but it required more than an hour break between races to allow teams the ability to change engines and make other necessary changes to the cars," TMS president Eddie Gossage said in a news release. "In listening to the fans, that hour break was simply too long. We're glad we tried the unique format, but we always listen to the fans' input to hopefully enhance their experience in the future."

Enjoy golden age of sports in Dallas-Fort Worth

September, 29, 2011
Is there a better sports market than Dallas-Fort Worth?

I know the ink-stained sportswriting elitists of New York City would scoff and say Gotham is the best. Chicago beat writers would down another bratwurst an tell you Da’ Windy City wins. Boston’s haughty scribes would slam down their glass, wipe the froth from their upper lip and remind that they have Fenway, the Pats and "The Gah-den." The L.A. sports media would hit you back that they, uh, have ... you know ... perfect weather.

But there is simply no contest. None. Give it up for North Texas. We have it all. And it’s not even close. This is the golden age of sports in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Look at the local venues. Look at the local teams. Look at the local colleges. Look at the local events. In no particular order, in the last year we've:

  • Hosted the World Series.
  • Won the NBA Finals.
  • A local university won the Rose Bowl.
  • Hosted two of America’s biggest NASCAR races.
  • Staged the Super Bowl.
  • Put on two of the PGA Tour’s iconic golf tournaments.
  • Been the site of three college football bowl games in a span of nine days.
  • Hosted several months of thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing.
  • Site of local college stadium building boom.
  • Uniquely promoted twin Indy Car races in one night -- the first time that's been done in 30 years.
  • Oh ... and our high school football team can beat up your high school football team. That goes without saying.


    Part of it are the teams. The Mavericks took their talents to South Beach and slapped LeBron James and the Heat. The Horned Frogs proved bigger than the Big Ten's Badgers in the "Grandaddy of Them All." The Rangers made it to the Fall Classic before falling to the Beard, but "that's the way baseball go."

    But a big part of it are the venues. Check your big screen because Cowboys Stadium is a lone star without peer. Texas Motor Speedway is the biggest -- as big as, well, Texas. The local golf tournaments are as venerable as the Colonial and lord over others like Byron himself. Horses simply ought to be racing in Texas at impressive and stately Lone Star Park. The Ballpark in Arlington is a classic throwback. American Airlines Center is home to Mavericks and Stars, yet is big enough to park the locally-based airlines' biggest jets inside.

    Want more?

    A few years ago SMU renovated its football stadium, and June Jones finally resurrected the Mustangs to a bowl game victory. TCU's stadium is expanding along with the school's rose garden. The University of North Texas built a new stadium for its Mean Green, complete with wings in the end zone (which we like, even though we don't really know why). And the Cotton Bowl, which no longer hosts the Cotton Bowl, may be prehistoric but it could be the greatest site in college football when it is decorated in burnt orange and crimson right on the 50-yard line.

    And did I mention that our high school football team can beat up your high school football team?

    So give credit to Cuban and Jerry and Bruton and Nolan and TCU, SMU and UNT and the Colonial and The Byron and the Chickasaw Nation for Lone Star Park and the rest for the great teams, venues and events -- we'll leave Tom Hicks out of this conversation.

    Nobody -- not NYC, not Chi-Town, not Boston, not L.A., not St. Louis, not Miami, not Atlanta, not Detroit, not San Fran, not PHX, not Houston, not anybody -- has been on a roll in sports the way Dallas-Fort Worth is right now. If you are a sports fan, this is THE place to be. This is the golden age. This could well be the golden year for sports for any community -- ever.

    And you know our high school football team can beat up your high school football team.
  • 2012 TMS sked: Twin Indy races, two Cup races

    August, 23, 2011
    PM CT
    The IndyCar Series twin race format will return to Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and the track's two NASCAR stops will be highlighted by a Saturday night spring race and the eighth Chase race, it was announced Tuesday night.

    The TMS schedule starts with the Samsung Mobile 500 on Sat., April 14, and will be the first Saturday night race of the Sprint Cup season. NASCAR returns to Texas on Nov. 4, for a Sunday afternoon race -- the eighth stop in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR's playoff format.

    Situated between those two Cup weekends is the Firestone Twin 275s, the twin races in the IndyCar Series that debuted last year at TMS. Those two races will be Sat., June 9, and will follow the Indianapolis 500 -- the series takes a week off after the Indy 500 before coming to Texas.

    NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch joined TMS president Eddie Gossage for the announcement at The Palladium Ballroom at Gilley's Dallas on Tuesday night. Kyle Petty, a former Cup driver and current TV analyst, served as the emcee.

    "We revamped the majority of our schedule in 2011 in an effort to give our fans some variety and uniqueness to our season, and they wanted very much of the same for 2012," Gossage said in a release. He's in the final stages of the completion of the 2012 race sanction agreements with NASCAR and IndyCar. "The first-ever Saturday night Cup race was a big success, the IndyCar twins format added a unique twist and the day-to-night appeal of the AAA Texas 500 for the Chase remains a fan favorite in the fall. The Texas Motor Speedway season has a little of everything for our fans."

    The Nationwide Series will race during both weekends and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will race on Friday, June 8, prior to the dual races in the IndyCar Series on Sat., June 9. They'll return to TMS in November for that NASCAR weekend.

    Victory evidence of Marco Andretti's maturity

    June, 28, 2011
    AM CT
    To carry a famous name in any sport -- Griese, Montana, Jordan -- the burden of comparison for the second- or third-generation athlete is overwhelming. There are certain racing gods -- Petty, Foyt, Andretti, Earnhardt, for instance -- that have seen mixed success in carrying on the family name over the years.

    Third-generation driver Marco Andretti hadn't won since his 2006 IndyCar Series rookie campaign, but I was probably one of the least surprised that he had that breakthrough win this past weekend at Iowa. Marco gave me a hint that he may be close to ending that winless streak when he arrived to The Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway for a media luncheon the day after a harrowing Bump Day at Indy in which he made the 33-car field in the final minute.

    [+] EnlargeAndretti
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty ImvagesMarco Andretti overtook former teammate Tony Kanaan with 18 laps left to win Saturday's IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway, his first victory since 2006.
    He spoke about maturing over the last few years, And while some critics may say it was about time, you have to realize that he's still only 24 years old despite six years in the series. Just a kid with an immense amount of pressure on him due to that last name of Andretti.

    And you could see that new maturity by the way he handled Bump Day with his dad in his ear. He laughed how there was no way he and dad would have survived a Bump Day like that a few years ago if he had not matured. Marco didn’t point fingers on why the car and team were in that position. He seemed genuinely bummed that teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway didn't make the field instead of being content that he was in the show and that was all that mattered.

    At that May lunch, he spoke of finally realizing that there was more responsibility and commitment to being a race-car driver than getting into the car five minutes before the track went hot. He discussed about working with his crew, becoming part of that team framework as well as becoming more engaging in sponsor and media obligations and handling them more adeptly. In fact, he visited the local Dr Pepper/Snapple plant that morning and talked about what a cool time he had and enjoyed meeting a lot of nice people.


    He was thoughtful in his answers to media questions that day, even joking that a few years ago his answers to most of them would have been, “Yes” and “No.” When a media person said maybe they should've asked better questions, Marco said, “Not really. I probably would have answered most them ‘yes’ and ‘no’ anyway.” Listening to him speak and watching his demeanor, you could sense his transformation.


    The kid always had talent, and I hope this win is a momentum builder for his season and his career. He is one of those marquee names with that great family lineage of Grandpa Mario and Dad Michael that reverberates around the IndyCar series much like Earnhardt in NASCAR. Having Marco achieve more success and contend for championships would be a boon to sport.

    Welcome back to Victory Lane, Marco. I hope to see you there more often in the future, and I think you’d look pretty good wearing a cowboy hat with six shooters in hand!

    Purity, controversy blend at Twin 275s

    June, 13, 2011
    PM CT
    Two big thoughts -- one requiring more discussion than the other -- stand out after the historic Firestone Twin 275s run this past Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

    First, both races were about as pure as they come, with only one caution occurring in a combined 204 laps of racing. The second race was run entirely caution-free. Most racing fans absolutely loved it, particularly with the high-intensity level seen in the second race considering that the starting positions were set by a random draw placing some of the championship contenders in the front of the pack while others were way in the back. The skill of the Indy Car drivers never ceases to amaze me.

    Which brings us to the big discussion ...

    Second, the controversy over the random drawing to select the starting positions for race number two. Dario Franchitti, the winner of the first Firestone Twin 275 and a championship contender again this year for the Indy Car title, voiced his displeasure with the concept.

    Franchitti makes a great argument (and, despite some reports, did so to me personally after the races in a friendly, calm, professional, unemotional conversation in which both of us discussed the merits of a number of concepts). Will Power, the current Indy Car points leader, drew the third starting position Saturday night while Franchitti wound up starting 28th. Franchitti's point is if both he and Power started closer together near the back of the pack in a complete inversion of the starting lineup, it would be much fairer since they would effectively have the same chance. Both drivers agreed the move of the race was Power's fortunate blind draw of such a great starting position.

    Franchitti's suggestion has one potential flaw, however: sand bagging. Inverting the starting lineup is a standard fare in all kinds of racing, from the weekly short tracks to some of NASCAR's most popular races. The big winner in the season-long Indy Car points race Saturday night was Scott Dixon. By finishing second in both Firestone Twin 275s, Dixon scored more points than anyone. By sand-bagging, a driver can find a way to score the most combined points.

    Both Franchitti and Marco Andretti passed a stunning 21 cars in the second race Saturday night. it was sizzling to watch the two slice through the field with precision and abandon.

    So I understand Franchitti's thoughts. Completely. As a competitor working hard to win another series championship, every point counts. I don't blame him for recommending the complete inversion for the second race.

    So we'll kick around what, if anything, should be done. Despite reports crediting me with the random selection concept, I don't make the rules for Indy Car races. Maybe I missed something since it's being reported in so many newspapers, blogs, columns and fan forums that I created the concept. I do like it. But I also like inverting the entire field. I'm open-minded on discussions for 2012.

    But I am only one voice. Franchitti is also one voice. At the end of the day, the Indy Car folks will make the decision, just as they did this year. That's their job and I defer to them. Rightfully so. They do a great job.

    I thought Saturday night's racing was incredible. And terribly interesting.

    And people around the country are talking about Indy car racing this week.

    I think it worked pretty well.

    Leading drivers suffer from blind draw

    June, 12, 2011
    AM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas Motor Speedway thought fans would be drawn into the surprise element of implementing a blind draw, so the track experimented with an idea to determine position for the second of the Firestone Twin 275s races Saturday.

    The drivers expressed a different feeling.

    Dario Franchitti won the first Firestone Twin 275 race and suffered the consequences for the second with an inverted blind draw order based on your first-race finish. He had no control over his fate and ended up starting in 28th place for the nightcap.

    “To have a championship in the IndyCar series, drawing the grid out of a hat is a joke,” Franchitti said. “Through no fault of our own, we started 25 places behind Will [Power]. Will, he took advantage of it tonight and did a great job.”

    Franchitti slowly passed drivers on the track one by one but eventually ran out of time. One of the fastest cars on the track would place seventh, and Franchitti seemed to have all but forgotten his win earlier after the conclusion of the second race.

    “There’s enough variables out there,” Franchitti said. “We don’t need to be throwing dice to be deciding grid positions. That made me mad. I’m sitting there, OK, I won the first race, but at the same point my emotion right now has been [ticked] off about the hand we were dealt tonight.

    Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, found himself in a similar position, starting in the middle of the pack in 18th from the blind draw. Dixon posted the fastest lap in the second race on Lap 110, but he could only manage to squeeze out consecutive second-place finishes on the night.

    “Second race, you could see it sort of trickling down with the draw that it wasn’t looking too good for ourselves,” Dixon said. “Obviously myself starting from 18th and Dario 28th, it’s a huge deficit when the competitor for the championship starts third and with not too much competition in front of him.”

    Power, the IndyCar series points leader, lucked out drawing the third spot -- ultimately becoming the biggest deciding factor for the first oval race win in his career -- while other drivers in the hunt for a championship series found themselves in the back of the pack. Power took the lead on Lap 39 and would dominate with the race-high 68 leading laps.

    “I thought coming into the race, you don’t control your own destiny basically,” Power said. “It’s just a draw. It was going to be very unfair for someone. It happened to be Dario.”

    The smoke may have settled from Power’s donuts after his victory, but Franchitti might see the lingering effects throughout the season. Power’s points over Franchitti jumped from seven to 21 points after the second race.

    “If it comes down to five points at the end of the year, Dario will look back at this race and say, ‘If I started where I should have, I would have had those five points.’”

    TMS president open to format tweaks for '12

    June, 12, 2011
    AM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage expects to have twin races again in 2012, but wants to discuss some possible tweaks to the format.

    That includes the random draw for the second race, which drew criticism from several drivers.

    "The twin races I think is a great idea," said Gossage, after posing for photos with Dario Franchitti (Race 1) and Will Power (Race 2) in Victory Lane. "I thought it worked really well. We had an incredibly clean night, so anybody that was concerned that it made it more dangerous, these drivers are so good they showed they could work their way through the field safely. I think we all need to talk about it and look at things."

    Those "things" include the length of the races and the draw itself.

    Between races, drivers walked up on the big stage on the front stretch and flipped a tire to reveal the number of his or her starting spot -- racing's version of pulling a number out of a hat. Some of the drivers got into it, egging on the crowd to help them make their selection. Tony Kanaan was one of those. He pointed at various tires with the crowd cheering and when they got the loudest, he flipped one over to win the pole position for the race.

    Franchitti wasn't as fortunate, drawing the No. 28 spot, while one of his chief competitors, Power, started third. It didn't sit well with Franchitti. His unlucky selection allowed Power to build his championship points lead, even though the second race counted for half points.

    "To have a championship in the IndyCar Series, drawing the grid out of a hat is a joke," Franchitti said. "Through no fault of our own, we started 25 places behind Will. He took advantage of it tonight and did a great job.

    "There's enough variables out there. We don't need to be throwing the dice to be deciding grid positions. That made me mad."

    Power, who is 21 points ahead in the championship race, agreed.

    "It was going to be very unfair for someone," Power said. "It happened to be Dario. Yeah, in a tightly-fought championship, you just can't have that. If it comes down to five points at the end of the year, Dario will look back and say, 'If I started where I should have, I would have had those five points.'"

    Franchitti spoke for a while in Victory Lane with Gossage about his idea to invert the field after the first race. That way it's likely the drivers competing for the title would all be in the back of the field, trying to fight their way to the front. Franchitti feels that's more equitable and several other drivers, including Scott Dixon and Danica Patrick, agreed.

    "That may be cool, that may be fine," Gossage said. "This is the top rung of open-wheel racing in America and therefore it is entertainment. It is show business. No apologies to anybody, but that being said, I don't know that inversion from a showbiz standpoint is less desireable than random or more desireable. It could be great. I don't know."

    Gossage also wants to discuss the lenght of the races. There was only one caution in the first race and none in the second, meaning fans got to see some quick races.

    "What happens if you add another pit stop?" Gossage said. "Does that make it more interesting? These are the kinds of things we can talk about."

    Rapid Reaction: Will Power wins Race 2

    June, 11, 2011
    PM CT

    FORT WORTH, Texas – When Will Power drew the third spot on a blind draw for the second Firestone Twin 275 race, he jumped up out of excitement on stage knowing he had a good enough car to win.

    The IndyCar series points leader leaped out of his car on Victory Lane with the same amount of joy 114 laps later after winning the second race at Texas Motor Speedway -- the first oval-race win in his career.

    *Power pitted on Lap 51 with the lead, switching out his tires and grabbing fuel. Three laps later, he would reclaim the lead until his final pit stop on Lap 105 for fuel only. He regained the edge over Scott Dixon on Lap 110 by 1.3531 seconds and coasted first to the finish line by .9466 of a second.

    *It’s Power’s third win this season and his 12th career victory in 76 starts. He also has 35 top-five finishes in his career.

    *Unlike Power, Dixon didn’t have such a great draw, starting in 18th place, but he managed to complete both races as the runner-up.

    *Last year’s Firestone 550k winner, Ryan Briscoe, picked up 15 spots to finish third. Helio Castroneves finished behind Briscoe, and blind-draw pole winner Tony Kanaan wrapped up the top five.

    *Marco Andretti made some adjustments after the first race and started from 27th to finish sixth.

    *Franchitti started in 28th with his blind draw after winning the first race. He would end up placing seventh.

    *This was the first race at TMS that did not have a caution flag.
    FORT WORTH, Texas --The biggest issue with a blind draw for the second race of the Firestone Twin 275s was the possibility of putting inexperienced drivers up front in a position they're not accustomed to.

    So far after 100 laps, we have yet to see a caution flag. There has never been a race at Texas Motor Speedway that hasn't had a caution flag.

    Will Power has taken a commanding lead through the majority of the race, but it'll be interesting to see when he'll make his last pit stop

    Tony Kanaan leading through 20 laps

    June, 11, 2011
    PM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tony Kanaan has maintained his top spot through 20 laps of the second Firestone Twin 275 race at Texas Motor Speedway.

    However, Wade Cunningham has dropped from second to 26th. He was involved in a crash during the first race.

    Dario Franchitti, the winner of the first race, has slowly jumped up seven spots to 21st.

    It'll be interesting to see if there are any accidents in the second race with the blend of experienced and inexperienced drivers. Also, there have been noticeable sparks flying from some of the turns when the drivers past due to bumps on the track and the high speeds at which they're driving, most notably around Turns 3 and 4.

    After win, Dario Franchitti starts 28th

    June, 11, 2011
    PM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Dario Franchitti's celebration after winning the first of the Firestone Twin 275s was brief before he strolled to the stage on the fronstretch to pick his spot for Race 2.

    Franchitti and teammate Tony Dixon were the last ones to pick with two tires left. Dixon drew No. 18, so that left No. 28 to Franchitti.

    He knows it won't be easy to pass all those cars to the front, but he said he would give it a go.

    Rapid Reaction: Dario Franchitti wins race 1

    June, 11, 2011
    PM CT
    FORT WORTH -- Dario Franchitti took the checkered flag by .05 seconds over Scott Dixon in the first of two Firestone Twin 275 races at Texas Motor Speedway.

    Franchitti was in the lead during a caution on Lap 92 that brought on a double-file restart with 10 laps to go. Franchitti jumped out to edge Dixon on the restart and remained in front for the final 10 laps to the first race on the night.

    *It's Franchitti's first win at TMS. Starting from second place, Franchitti dominated the race leading 110 of the 114 laps.

    *IndyCar series points leader Will Power finished in third place -- the same spot he started the race.

    *There were six lead changes involving five drivers. Pole leader Alex Tagliani led only one lap and finished fourth. Takuma Sato rounded out the top five.

    *The only caution lasted from Lap 94 to Lap 103 due to an accident involving rookie Charlie Kimball and Wade Cunningham. Both drivers did not return to finish the race

    *Danica Patrick took an early pit and dropped from 10th to 21st at one point during the race. She finished the race in 16th place.

    *The race took nearly 55 minutes averaging 181.649 miles an hour.

    Will Power very excited to start third

    June, 11, 2011
    PM CT
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Will Power looked like he won the lottery when he came out third to last to pick his spot and managed to get No. 3.

    Power jumped up and down as the crowd cheered. He said before he flipped his tire that his car ran a lot better up front. So after finishing third in race No. 1, Power will get a chance to try to win his first race on the oval from the third position in race No. 2.