FORT WORTH, Texas -- The new car is harder than ever to drive at Texas Motor Speedway, and believe it or not, the IndyCar Series drivers love it.
Alex Tagliani, the 2011 pole winner at TMS, won the pole again Friday for the Firestone 550 Saturday night with a two-lap average of 215.691 mph.
It was half-a-mile per hour faster than last year's pole-winning time, but the drivers aren't concerned about the increased qualifying speed.
Aerodynamic changes made to the new DW12 IndyCar model have decreased downforce, meaning the drivers will have to lift off the throttle in the turns for the first time at TMS. It should reduce some of the dangerous pack racing the drivers fear.
"This is what we want," said 2012 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti. "We wanted to give the drivers more control here and we've done it. We can control our own destiny now. We'll definitely have to lift because they cars are a handful.
"My heart was beating pretty fast there in qualifying. It was definitely on the edge. I think it going to be the best race here in a long time, because there's less chance you will get caught up in someone else's wreck."
Franchitti has been one of the biggest critics of racing at these type of tracks. Concerns increased after Dan Wheldon was killed in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- a track almost identical to TMS.
"We are sliding around all the way through the corners today," said Will Power, who starts fifth Saturday. "Man, you are holding on for sure, but we'll get spread out more, which is good. You can't hug the white line like we used to. If won't be the normal race we have seen here. But there will be a lot of moving around, backward and forward."
Graham Rahal, who starts third Saturday, also was thrilled with the changes that will make a big difference in this event.
"I think it's great what's been done," Rahal said. "This is what we asked for. It's the first time I've come here where we actually after to drive these things. It feels completely different. I think we'll see plenty of passing. It's going to be fun."
Tagliani said there is a huge level of comfort now at TMS compared to one year ago.
"After what happened in Las Vegas, we need to leave here with a safe race," Tagliani said. "I think we've taken the right steps to do that."