Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

IndyCar driver Oriol Servia fans concerns about racing at Texas Motor Speedway

ST. PETERSBURG — Memories of Dan Wheldon's deadly crash and ideas about how to prevent future fatalities filled Wednesday's IndyCar media day, with veteran Oriol Servia flaming the controversy with Texas Motor Speedway.

"I just hate that it seems like we're not working together when I thought we were working together and trying to find a solution," said Servia, a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver.

Rumors of a driver boycott surfaced recently regarding the June race at Texas because the track lends itself to dangerous pack racing. Drivers denied considering a boycott, but track president Eddie Gossage roared back that their language was "a threat" and that they didn't seem to support the speedway.

Servia said he objects to Texas' fence and how its metal posts are on its inside rather than the outside, so drivers are more likely to hit them in an accident. Wheldon died in October after the St. Petersburg resident's head hit a post in the season-ending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Servia said that after Wheldon's death it was "common sense" to make changes.

"Everybody hates the fence …" Servia said. "This is dangerous stuff. Once you know it, why wouldn't you fix it?"

Three-time defending series champion Dario Franchitti didn't want to add to the controversy but said only IndyCar drivers who have raced at Texas can understand their concerns.

"It's a very emotional and personal thing because of what we've gone through," Franchitti said.

Grand Prix sales up: Ticket sales are up for this month's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg compared to this time last year, race vice president and general manager Tim Ramsberger said. The event has also sold out its hospitality suites and is ahead of schedule on building the track.

Ramsberger said he expects the unfamiliarity with the new cars to produce more excitement at the March 25 season opener.

"I think it's going to be wide open," Ramsberger said.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves agreed.

He said he believes powerhouse teams such as Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing will become more successful later in the season, but no one has an advantage in the first race because teams will still be learning their equipment.

"I think it'll be competitive," Castroneves said. "I think along the season, I do believe it's going to start separating the bigger teams from the small teams."

Praise from Rahal: Graham Rahal has special memories of racing in St. Petersburg. His first series win came at the street course in 2008. His first pole followed in 2009.

"I love St. Pete," Rahal said. "I absolutely love coming here. If I could race here 20 times a year, it'd make me happy. I really enjoy coming here. It's just so peaceful. You come here, to sit where we sit now and overlook the marina, it's just great."

IndyCar in Florida: IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard addressed two Florida areas as possibilities for future series events.

Fort Lauderdale was considered as a candidate for the season finale this year, but Bernard said talks of a street race there stalled.

"They either need to make it happen or not make it happen," Bernard said.

The Indy Racing League raced at Walt Disney World Speedway from 1996 to 2000, but the track would have to address noise concerns because of nearby animals and SAFER barrier issues before IndyCar would consider returning to the 1-mile trioval.

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]

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