FORT WORTH, Texas – The Firestone 600 may have been postponed due to lingering wet track conditions at Texas Motor Speedway, but Verizon IndyCar Series drivers still made the night memorable for many of the patient fans at the track.
Daylong rain saturated the 1.455-mile oval Saturday, and INDYCAR and track workers were unable to get the track suitably dry before announcing the postponement at 11:30 p.m. ET. The 248-lap race, the ninth of 16 on the 2016 schedule, is set to take the green flag at 2:15 p.m. ET Sunday and will be telecast live beginning at 2 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
“Texas is always cool because it’s a night race, and we were going to have a cool, sparky fireworks show with the skid blocks hitting in Turn 1,” said James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. “I feel so bad for the fans who came out and sat around here all day waiting for something to happen.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t give them a show. We’ll take a crack at it (Sunday) and give them a good show. Being a day race, it will switch things up a little, but maybe that will make for a more exciting show.”
It marks the first Verizon IndyCar Series race postponed since the first end of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on July 19, 2014. It was run the following day.
Two previous races at Texas Motor Speedway have also been postponed. The June 2000 night race was rained out and run the following day. The season-ending race scheduled for Sept. 15, 2001, was postponed following the 9/11 tragedies and run on Oct. 6.
As the delay lingered into night, 10 drivers ventured into the speedway’s grandstands for an impromptu autograph session that was well received by the eager crowd. Mikhail Aleshin, Sebastien Bourdais, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal and Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi spent nearly 30 minutes signing autographs and taking photos.
“It was awesome,” Hinchcliffe said. “We got mobbed. It was overwhelming. It’s so great that so many people stuck it out as long as they did. The least we could do was jump up there and say thanks and sign some autographs. The response was great. Texas definitely loves INDYCAR.”
Disappointed in having his first race at Texas delayed by a day, Rossi still enjoyed visiting with the fans.
“I thought (the race) was going to be pretty spectacular under the lights,” said Rossi (pictured above surrounded by fans in the stands). “I was looking forward to it and it would have just added to the effect of the race. Big shout-out to the fans that stayed. I was glad to get up there and spend a bit of time with them. Hopefully, they’ll all come back (Sunday). It will still be an exciting show for the fans, just a bit more challenging for us drivers.”
Munoz won the Verizon P1 Award in Friday’s qualifying and will start from the pole position Sunday in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, with defending Firestone 600 winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon starting alongside on Row 1. Helio Castroneves, the only four-time Indy car race winner at Texas Motor Speedway, starts third.
Tickets from the postponement will be honored Sunday. Gates will open at Texas Motor Speedway at noon ET, with tickets available for purchase at Gate 4. For more information, visit texasmotorspeedway.com.