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Pruett's Preview: Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway

Having come within 0.1046 of a second of winning his first Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, Team Penske’s Will Power has his sights set on capturing his first oval win of the year during Saturday night’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion scored his first-ever oval victory at Texas in 2011, went on to take two more oval wins at Milwaukee and Fontana through 2013, and knows earning another IndyCar title will be much easier if he can ride into Victory Lane this weekend.

The Chevy-powered Australian is fond of the 1.5-mile Texas oval, and says the challenge he and others face at TMS makes it a unique stop on the IndyCar calendar.

“Texas is a different track than most; it has very big transitions off the banking, which makes it quite difficult,” Power explained. “I really like Texas. It’s definitely a difficult track because the tires degrade and you really have to go drive the thing. Last year it was the most fun I’d ever had on an oval just because you slide around so much.

“And the thing I like about IndyCar now is there isn’t a single track that’s like any other. You got Texas and high banking, you’ve got a flat one-mile oval at Milwaukee, you have a short high-bank oval in Iowa, and then you’ve got Indy, you’ve got Pocono which is also different again, and then you’ve got Fontana. You have to be very diverse in this series, there’s a lot of different stuff you have to be good at, and Texas is one of the hardest.” 

INDYCAR’s aero kit specifications for Texas call for a higher level of downforce than teams used last year, which will require plenty of tuning throughout the event. Power hopes to find the aero kits from Chevy and Honda allow for a separation in speeds based on whether teams choose straightline speed or cornering performance.

“We’re going to definitely have more downforce, and I’m not sure how it’s going to play out,” he said. “I prefer lower downforce on the ovals. It makes you understand and really work on the car, the mechanical side of the car, which just makes you a better overall driver altogether. Some of the changes we’ve had at Texas the last couple of years have been interesting, and it turned the whole field into better oval drivers. 

“I just hope we don’t have too much downforce, and there’s two aero kits now so it isn’t the same for everybody. I think it will be hard to predict what the racing will be like until the race starts.”

In a perfect world, Power would like to see teams steer towards lower downforce so drivers cannot run flat out with ease. 

“I’d like to see where if you run a lot of downforce, you pay for it with a slower car,” he noted. “If you want to trim out, you get the benefit of more performance, and if you want to run downforce, well, you have to be slower but you’re going to feel safe.

“And if you have teams choosing one or the other, some of the might be good in the beginning of the stint and then some will come on at the end. But the long and short of it is it’s going to be about the driving. My argument has been downforce masks bad drivers and bad setups. It should be 100 percent about the driving. You should always be lifting on ovals. Always.”

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