24-hours ago I was completely in support of the format for the 'Texas 2-step' (last time I'll use that title, promise). Traditional qualifying for the first 275km race, followed by an hour break where a random draw would take place setting the grid for the second 275. It was the best of both worlds, the first event was based on skill and performance, while the second was luck which would provide a lot of entertainment. Unfortunately the format backfired.
Although many of the teams didn't agree with how the latter event would be gridded, as title contenders, Target Chip Ganassi Racing had an even greater angst than most. If the worst-case scenario came to fruition for either of the two chief championship contenders in Penske's Will Power or Ganassi's Dario Franchitti, the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Champion could come down to the flip of a Firstone Firehawk.
For Ganassi and Dario Franchitti that apocalyptic scenario came to be, with Will Power starting 3rd and Dario drawing 28th.
With Power just starting behind a rookie in a backup car and Tony Kanaan, who admitted he didn't have the speed to compete for the win, the two spots Power had to gain to drive to victory lane were nothing compared to Franchitti's late-night push. Having to fight through a 30-car field, the largest outside of Indianapolis in years, and just having roughly 170 miles to do so with no yellows to bunch up the field, the Ganassi pilot could only muster a 7th place finish.
It's not like the teams didn't see the scenario happening, in fact Target Chip Ganassi Racing saw it coming a mile away. "Let's just say I don't agree with this stunt style format, here, tonight," Chip Ganassi told VERSUS pit-reporter Lindy Thackston during the 1-hour break. Interview after interview by the VERSUS crew during the intermission suggested simply inverting the field. The winner starting last, and the last place finisher starting on pole in the the next race. But I believe Scott Dixon had an even better idea.
Following the second 275km event, Dixon suggested that if the same format were to return in 2012, bonus points should be given for each position advanced in the second race. Although I initially laughed it off, the more I thought about it the more I liked it. But it would be even more appealing and fair with a little twist.
Have the same stage setup as Saturday night, with a grid full of tires, models, music and the whole nine yards. But this time let the field take to the stage in the same order that they finished. So in last night's case, Dario would of been first up. Instead of flipping a random tire for his position, the driver could choose the spot on the grid that they'd like to start. If Dario wanted to sit on pole, great, it was his for the taking, but he wouldn't have an opportunity at bonus points. On the other hand if he was confident enough in his car, crew, and his own abilities he could flip the 12th, 23rd or last place starting positions, giving him a shot at additional points.
In that format the drivers and teams couldn't blame anyone for their situation, yet it would still leave room for strategy. Would Dario of chosen the pole last night? I don't think so, each and every point in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship is just too important.
INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage deserve a lot of credit for thinking outside of the box. But like anything else the first attempt wasn't perfect and a few tweaks need to be made for next year. If Bernard makes the right changes, it could turn a mildly successful weekend into a great success, and leave his voicemail inbox empty of some not-so-nice messages from affected competitors.