After acknowledging a general air of concern among IZOD IndyCar Series drivers ahead of the return to 1.5-mile tracks, the top three finishers in Saturday's Firestone 550 enthusiastically endorsed IndyCar's aero package for Texas Motor Speedway and want the series to keep going there.
" I thought it was fantastic," enthused race winner Justin Wilson. "People were nervous, but as soon as the cars went on track, everyone calmed down. I think also a lot of credit to IndyCar and the way they heard everybody's opinion, everyone got to talk about it, and just talking about it calmed everybody down. Once they realized, 'OK, my mind isn't driving me crazy and it's a problem,' they calmed down and we came up with some good solutions.
"Obviously I won the race, but I had a lot of fun out there. I thought it was the best run I've had on an oval."
Runner-up Graham Rahal also lauded the technical package put together for the race.
"I really felt that the drivers made a difference tonight," said the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. "You saw my teammate Scott [Dixon], who was blistering fast early on and throughout most of the race. I can tell you that guy was driving a car that was a lot looser than me and I thought my car was loose. It's amazing how long he kind of held onto it.
"I thought it was a really good race. I don't know how it looked from the outside, but I sure know that sometimes like at the end I was able to move forward like a bullet and sometimes I was falling back like a lead balloon. It went both ways, and that's the way these things go. But I thought that the racing was finally really good.
"The tires certainly fell off. Firestone makes a great tire, and a lot of times I think that it's probably too good, and here's a case where I think it was just about right. That right-rear tire started to go pretty quickly, and my second through say my second‑to‑last stint the car was getting really, really, loose and it was hard for us to chase it. I thought the formula was a lot better than say, pack racing around here."
Asked whether he felt the racing would have been just as good without the extra 125 lbs of downforce with the wicker added by IndyCar during the weekend, Rahal said: "Definitely would have been hanging on a lot more. But in the end, it's probably a good mix where we ended up, because certainly if we had taken more off, it probably would have been more strung out. I mean I had times in this race where I felt like I was just hanging on for dear life. I had some huge saves. A couple times I thought the car was gone, and then obviously I had times where I thought I was a man on a mission at the end there."
Rahal added that he definitely wants IndyCar to return to Texas in the future.
"If it's like tonight, absolutely. Why not? We put on a great show. You know, I don't like pack racing. Just as a driver you feel like you can't control your own destiny when you're pack racing, and here you definitely had to drive the thing tonight. And it's the first time on a mile and a half, other than maybe Homestead in 2010, that I've really felt like the driver can make a difference. So I really enjoy that.
"I think the league did a great job this weekend. You have to find the right amount of downforce to make the car work, and whether that's 1,900 lbs of downforce, 2,300 lbs of downforce, drivers always want more, but they realize we need to make the car safe and not have pack racing. So I think what the league did and the adjustments they made during the weekend were perfect, and it showed; you had another great, entertaining race. The product on the track was really, really good. I don't know how many passes there were, but the race was good, and I think they hit the sweet spot on the rules this weekend.
Third-place finisher Ryan Briscoe agreed.
"I've never been opposed to one‑and‑a‑half mile racing, I just think we need to get the formula right, and pack racing is wrong in these cars," said the Team Penske driver. "I would definitely come back here with this package. It's tough. Cars hit the walls, and I don't know about other safety issues that could be improved, but the big thing is getting away from pack racing. I thought the racing was awesome."
Winning car owner Dale Coyne also endorsed a return to Texas.
"The rules are so important, and I think they addressed that," said Coyne. "That's the difference here and Las Vegas last year, where we had pack racing with too many cars on the track. I think just a little common sense has to prevail, and we put out a great product tonight. The racing was good, the passes were good, and it was a safe race. I think the guys that crashed, everybody was fine. This [track] has always been a staple of the series, and I think it would be very important to come back here again."