By Phillip Schmitz, Staff Writer
If you were a fan that watched Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, either from the grandstands or watching it on television, you could not have asked for a better NTT IndyCar Series race to witness.
If the only negatives that came from it were the early start time or the race finishing under caution, I’ll take those two when you consider the recent IndyCar races that have been held at the 1.5-mile oval. Prior to last Sunday, the racing has been less than ideal.
After watching the race, I’m not going to say it was the best ever at Texas, but I will say it was the best since the reconfiguration in 2017. If not further than that if I’m honest. It was simply that good of a race.
IndyCar and Texas needed a race like that, with a lot of credit going to both of them. The sanctioning body did its part by deciding to add more downforce to the cars, as well as having a special practice that allowed all the drivers the opportunity to put down rubber in the second groove. Credit also goes to Firestone for providing the teams an extra set of tires to accommodate.
While the future of the IndyCar at Texas is still up in the air, the series has the option to return next season, and potentially beyond. Sunday shows that IndyCar wants to make it work at the track. They want to be in the Dallas/Fort Worth market.
Same with Texas Motor Speedway, who’s tried to do whatever they can to enhance the racing. Trying to get rid of the PJ1 that was sprayed in 2019 for NASCAR races, which stained the racing surface for the years to come. For its part, the track has tried to power wash and grind down the racing surface in an effort to remove as much of the stained part off the racing surface.
Mother Nature also played nice for all involved last weekend. The race start time on Sunday for the PPG 375 was moved from 11:45 AM start time to being at 11:00 AM, due to the potential of inclement weather moving in and affecting the race. Thankfully it didn’t rain until hours after the No 2. PPG Team Penske Chevrolet of Josef Newgarden won the race.
Following Sunday’s successful outing, it’s probably a good bet that we’ll see the IndyCar back at Texas next year. After the race we just had, there’s not a reason why it shouldn’t be on the schedule. Question is where on the schedule, and what time?
In a dream scenario, returning the race to a Saturday night under the lights could be one option. Maybe have this become the final race of the season on network TV. That’s if NBC has an open time slot to accommodate the move.
The network also covers college football with Notre Dame in the fall, so a prime slot might not be open for the IndyCar to race in the month of September or October.
Should that Saturday night scenario play out, one other thing to keep in mind are the other professional sports leagues that have a presence in the city, namely the NFL. With the track in the DFW market, the Dallas Cowboys reign supreme in this area, so it’s best to not have a race on the same day the Cowboys are playing football.
If it can’t become the final race of the season, then at minimum make it a night race again and have it be on network TV with NBC. That will give the best chance for both fan attendance and TV viewership.
After years of trying to make the IndyCar race at Texas work, we finally have a race like the PPG 375 on Sunday for both to build on.
Now it’s the question of can we make it grow even more in the years to come? To make the race that happened on Sunday, be even better well into the future.