Photo: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

Event Preview: The Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to the Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600, continuing the 2016 season. The race will be held on Saturday evening under the lights. The event is slated for June 10-11, 2016.

About the Race

The Firestone 600 is round nine of sixteen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016. The event is held on an oval track, one of five such races on the calendar.

The defending race winner is Scott Dixon in the Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet. For Dixon it was the second of three 2015 wins in a season where he ultimately won the Championship.

The race will consist of 248 laps for a total race distance of 360.8 miles, which translates to roughly 600 kilometers, and thus the designation as The Firestone 600. Standard oval track qualifying procedures will apply.

Support races include Legends Racing and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

About the Track

Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.455 mile paved oval track. The turns are banked at 24 degrees, and the oval features a dogleg on the front straight. The layout is similar in design to Atlanta or Charlotte.

The track opened in February of 1996 and is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Racing promoter, Eddie Gossage, is the President and General Manager of Texas Motor Speedway, a position he has held since the track opened.

Located just North of Fort Worth, Texas, the facility boasts a seating capacity of over 180,000. In addition the the Verizon IndyCar Series date, the track also hosts the three top divisions in NASCAR.

Event History

The IndyCar series debuted at the Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 and has been a mainstay on the track’s schedule ever since. The inaugural race provided some controversy when a scoring error gave the win to A.J. Foyt’s driver, Billy Boat. When the rightful winner, Arie Luyendyk, stormed into victory lane, he found himself on the wrong end of the angry Texan’s fist.

Between 1998 and 2004 Texas Motor Speedway hosted the Indycar series twice each year, with the Fall race serving as the season finale from 1999 -2004. After the track received a second NASCAR Cup date, the second IndyCar race was dropped, although the race was ran as a double-header heat style race in 2011. Some controversy over the blind draw that was utilized to set the starting grid for the second race caused the original one-race format to return in 2012.

In 2001, Texas sought to be the only track to host NASCAR, the Indy Racing League, and the CART Series in the same season. Safety concerns caused the CART event to be cancelled at the last minute.  Read all about that here. Even though the race never actually ran, Kenny Brack’s pole-winning lap at a blistering 233.447 mph still stands as the official track record. 

Over the years TMS has produced some very exciting races, including Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves crossing the start/finish side-by-side in 2002 for the fifth closest finish in IndyCar history. In 2003 TMS was the site of the last win for two time Indy 500 winner, Al Unser Jr.

TMS also was the site of the first oval-track win for both Will Power and the late Justin Wilson, two drivers long considered road course specialists.

About the Field

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed top-to-bottom lineups we have seen in years.

22 drivers will take the green in Texas. The drivers that have won in Texas are Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, and Tony Kanaan. Castroneves leads all drivers with four wins on the Texas oval.

Seventeen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, six have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champcar, and six are Indy 500 winners, including the newest member of that club; Alexander Rossi.

Drivers in the series represent ten different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.

About the Series

The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen slow, but steady growth.

Over the past several seasons the racing produced by the series has been second to none, and the Championship battle has gone down to the final race.

Without the benefit of a gimmick like the Chase, the Verizon IndyCar Series has produced enough close racing and drama to satisfy the racing fan.

The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which celebrated its historic 100th running this season.

Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer.

Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.

Where and When to Watch

Tickets for the Firestone 600 can be purchased here. Pricing ranges from $30.00 for a one-day lower grandstand ticket up to $110.00 for a weekend ticket.

Television coverage will be provided by NBC-SN. Practice will be televised Friday at 11:00 am EST, with qualifying being shown at 5:00 pm EST.  Race coverage will begin at 7:00 pm EST on Sautrday.

Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at www.indycar.com and fans can keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,