- Firestone Firehawk 600
Name = Firestone Firehawk 600
Texas Motor Speedway
Laps = 248
Circuit_length_km = 2.371
Circuit_length_mi = 1.482
Race_length_km = 588.008
Race_length_mi = 367.536
Most_wins_driver = 0
Most_wins_constructor = 0
Current_year = 2001
Winning_time = 0.000 | Winner = race not completed
Winning_team = N/A
Pole_time = 22.854
Pole_team = Team Rahal
Fastest_lap_driver = N/A
Fastest_lap_team = N/AThe Firestone Firehawk 600 was a CART series race scheduled for
April 29, 2001at the Texas Motor Speedwayin Fort Worth, Texas. It was scheduled for 250 laps around the convert|1.5|mi|km|sing=on oval at TMS. However, it was postponed and ultimately cancelled due to concerns about driver safety.
The race was sponsored by Firestone and
The Firestone Firehawk 600 was to be the second attempt to run an open-wheel race on a high-banked track designed for
NASCARracing. Texas Motor Speedway, which opened in 1997, is classified as an intermediate oval with a length of convert|1.5|mi|km. The turns are banked at 24° oval. By comparison, the turns at Indianapolis are only banked at 9 degrees, and Michigan are only 18°.
When it was under construction, TMS was designed to have a dual-banking layout. The steep 24° banking on top would handle NASCAR races. A secondary 8° banking below was designed for the faster Indycars. CART had expressed interest in holding a race at the facility, but after closer examination of the unusual dual-banking system, decided it was not feasible.
Indy Racing Leaguehad run what is now the Bombardier Learjet 550since 1997, along with a fall race from 1998-2004. IRL cars are slower than their CART counterparts. Combined with their normally-aspirated engines and a higher downforcechassis, the IRL cars were able to handle the steep 24° bankings. The secondary banking design was deemed a failure, and in 1998, the turn transitions were reconfigured, and the dual banking was removed, in favor of a larger apron.
After the success of the IRL event, CART desired to hold an event at the track. Over the summer of 2000, negotiations were ongoing, with a tentative date of
May 6, 2001 set for the inaugural event.cite news
title =Race date changes at Texas for 2001
date = 2000-08-03
accessdate = 2008-08-02] When the 2001 CART schedule was released, the race was scheduled for
April 29, 2001, and was set to air live on ABCcite news
title =CART 2001 schedule announcement
date = 2000-08-04
accessdate = 2008-08-02] (it was eventually switched to ESPN).
The expectations for dangerously high speeds were an early concern, and even led to rumors of cancellation or moving the race to the infield road course. Unlike their IRL counterparts, the CART machines had much more power from their turbocharged engines, and less downforce, thus were expected to traverse the circuit much faster. The Texas track would have the steepest banking of any CART race since they raced at Atlanta in 1983. The high banking and sharp turns were expected to impose unprecedented "g" loads on the drivers and cars.
A test was scheduled for
December 18, 2000 in order to address concerns.cite news
title =December test date set at Texas
date = 2000-11-30
accessdate = 2008-08-02]
TMS president Eddie Gossage wrote to CART management urging them to mandate certain suspension components, among others, to improve safety for the event.cite news
title =Gugelmin looks forward to Texas
date = 2000-11-30
accessdate = 2008-12-08] CART driver
Mauricio Gugelminexpressed that the drivers would face a challenge, but was confident that CART would find the solutions needed to conduct the race. Gugelmin also noted that "stronger parts will be necessary because of the loading generated by the banking."
The first CART test session began on
December 19, 2000. Kenny Brack, a former Indy Racing League driver (who had raced previously at Texas in the IRL) was the first driver to take to the track.cite news
title =Notes series happenings 2000-12-18
date = 2000-12-19
accessdate = 2008-08-02] The target speeds were set at 225 mph. Brack completed over 100 laps, with a top lap over 221 mph.cite news
title =Brack impressed with first test at Texas
date = 2000-12-19
accessdate = 2008-08-02] CART chief stewart J. Kirk Russell, track officials, Brack, and Team Rahal expressed satisfaction with the test and the data collected. CART set its rules package for the race as utilizing 37 in HG manifold pressure (down from 40) and installing the Hanford device on all rear wings.
While CART did not arrange a full-field open test, several private tests followed. The second series of private tests, scheduled for three days, began
February 21, 2001. The entire week was hindered by rain and cool temperatures.cite news
title =Teams complete Texas test
date = 2001-02-24
accessdate = 2008-08-02]
Patrick Racingand driver Jimmy Vasserwere the first teams to take to the track.cite news
title =Patrick Racing tests at Texas Motor Speedway
date = 2001-02-22
accessdate = 2008-08-02] On the first day, rain kept the track closed until 11:30 a.m. A busy afternoon saw Vasser driver over 100 laps, with a top lap over convert|215|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. Vasser reported it was "fairly easy to drive flat out" and said the track was somewhat bumpy. The team claimed to have accomplished all of their goals in the abbreviated half-day session, and cancelled the remaining two days they had scheduled for the test.
Team KOOL Green tested at the track on
February 22with driver Dario Franchitti.cite news
title =Team KOOL Green tests Texas
date = 2001-02-24
accessdate = 2008-08-02] He completed 190 laps with a top lap speed of convert|225.7|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. Top trap speeds may have been as high as convert|228|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on.
Patrick Racingthe day before, Team Green cancelled their second scheduled day af testing when they felt they had accomplished their testing goals after only one session. Franchitti expressed reservations about the tracks roughness and reported pulling 3 Gs in the corners. He also predicted that two-wide racing would be possible during the race. PacWest Racingalso tested at the track on February 22with rookie driver Scott Dixoncite news
title =Dixon quickest Toyota in Texas
date = 2001-02-23
accessdate = 2008-08-02] and
Mauricio GugelminIn 55 degree weather, Dixon drove about 140 laps, with a top speed close to 225 mph. Gugelmin also reported the ability to drive flat out around the track.
Comparisons with IRL
The existing track qualifying record at
Texas Motor Speedwayfor the Indy Racing Leagueevents was set June 5, 1998 by Tony Stewart(24.059 seconds; 224.448 mph). The fastest race lap, aided by a tow was set by Billy Boaton June 6, 1998 (23.759 seconds; 227.273 mph).cite news
title =Official Box Score True Value 500
date = 1998-06-06
accessdate = 2008-08-02] The following year, the cars were slowed down by rules changes, and speed remained in the 215-216 mph range.
Scott Dixon's unaided convert|225|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on lap during testing already unofficially broke the IRL's qualfying record.
Following the tests, very few changes were made to the cars leading up to he race. The teams that participated reported satisfaction with the information gather during the tests. The primary concerns expressed dwelled on the roughness of the circuit.cite news
title =Pre-Texas quoteboard
date = 2001-04-24
accessdate = 2008-08-02]
The track itself, however, underwent a few upgrades. Changes included a concerete wall on pit lane between the pit stalls and the grassy "qual oval" area along the frontstretch. The track's surface was also smoothed in some areas, in response the the complaints.
Friday morning practice
Going into race week, many drivers expressed apprehension about the upcomming race. The first practice session was held the morning of Friday
April 27, 2001. CART officials re-measured the track for scoring purposes, and utilized a length of 1.482 miles.cite news
title =Texas Friday morning practice results
date = 2001-04-27
accessdate = 2008-08-02] At the time,
NASCARand IRL utilized a track measurement of convert|1.5|mi|km. The first practice session saw no incidents. Tony Kanaanturned the fastest lap at 22.845 seconds (233.539 mph), a full second quicker than the fastest time reported during the test sessions.
Kenny Brackqualified for the pole position at an all-time official track record of 22.854 seconds (233.447 mph). Patrick Carpentierwas second, and Oriol Serviathird. Twenty-four of the twenty-five cars were over convert|226|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on, and the average speed for the field was Auto mph|229.9|1.
During qualifying, drivers were reporting 5 lateral Gs sustained for 14-18 of the 23 seconds per lap.
After the CART series finished qualifying, the Dayton Indy Lights series held a convert|100|mi|km|sing=on race at the track.
Dan Wheldonand Mario Dominguezhad led the speed charts in practice and qualifying, with top laps over convert|188|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. Damien Faulknerwon the race at an average speed of 150.491 mph. [ [http://www.teamdan.com/archive/2001/ilite3.html 2001 Indy Lights Texas] ]
By late Saturday afternoon, concerns were rising about driver safety on the track.
Patrick Carpentierwent to the medical facility to have his wrist checked. As an aside, he mentioned that he could not walk in a straight line for at least four minutes after he got out of his car. An impromptu survey was taken during the private drivers' meeting and 21 of the 25 drivers in the starting field reported suffering disorientationcite news
title =Driver safety concerns postpone Texas race
date = 2001-04-29
accessdate = 2008-08-02] and vertigo-like symptoms, including
inner ear, or vision problems, after running more than 10 laps (or 20 laps). They also claimed that they had had virtually no peripheral vision and limited reaction time. This was due to sustained "g"-loads as high as 5.5--almost double what most persons can endure, and closer to what jet pilots usually experience.
Olvey contacted Dr. Richard Jennings, a former flight director at
NASAand professor of aviation medicine at the University of Texas. They discussed the known levels of human tolerance of vertical "g"-loads. Jennings replied that the human body could not tolerate sustained loads of more than 4-4.5 Gs. CART determined that the race could not be run at more than convert|225|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on without raising safety concerns over G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness. [ [http://espn.go.com/rpm/cart/2001/0430/1189419.html Race might be rescheduled] . ESPNwire services, 2001-04-30.]
CART officials tried to take some downforce out of the rear wings of the cars and reduce the horsepower.cite news
title =The writing was on the wall long ago
date = 2001-04-29
accessdate = 2008-08-14]
However, by Sunday morning, time was running out to make changes necessary to hold the race safely. The morning warm-up session was canceled. Two hours before the scheduled start, the race was postponed. Over 60,000 fans were sent home.
At a press conference, CART president and CEO Joe Heitzler did not blame the track. Rather, he stressed that officials could not in good conscience allow a race with such serious concerns about the safety of the drivers. Olvey added that the vertigo symptoms might have been exaggerated since the temperature was an unseasonably warm 80 degrees. There was fear of the possibility that drivers could suffer "grey-outs" or lose consciousness from "G-LOC". It is also likely that the high "g"-loads would have been outside the design limits for the
HANS device, which was required for all CART races at oval tracks.
Gossage was harshly critical of CART's decision. He argued that CART assured him it could run the race even though it had not conducted more extensive tests at the track. Russell argued that there was no time due to scheduling conflicts.
Michael Andrettiadded that there was no real way to simulate ≈26 or more cars in a race. ESPN's Robin Miller later said that CART should have known there was a problem the minute the first driver was over clocked convert|230|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on on Friday--which would have been plenty of time to slow down the cars and race safely.
CART officials held out the possibility of rescheduling the race, but there was no room in the schedule and it was ultimately canceled.
The Firehawk 600 marked the first time a CART race had been canceled outright due to driver safety issues. The 1985 Michigan 500 was postponed six days due to concerns about Goodyear's new radial tire. After three major crashes, drivers refused to participate, and the race was run the following weekend with the old bias-ply tires.cite news
title =No need for speed
date = 2000-08-03
accessdate = 2008-08-02]
Lawsuit and settlement
Texas Motor Speedwayowner, Speedway Motorsports, sued CART on May 8for breach of contract. Damages cited included issuing refunds for over 60,000 tickets, purse, the $2.1 million sanction fee, and additional compensation for promotional expenses, lost profits, and other damages.
During the suit, it subsequently emerged that CART had ignored repeated requests to conduct testing at TMS before the aborted race. On
October 16, the two parties settled for an undisclosed amount.cite news
title =Texas Motor Speedway Reaches Settlement Over Cancelled Race
date = 2001-10-16
accessdate = 2008-08-02] Terms were not disclosed, but estimates were between $5-$7 million. A contract that included a race for 2002 and 2003 was annulled.
In the aftermath, the handling of the incident was widely criticized by fans and mediacite news
title =Tire issues aside, at least NASCAR put on a competitive show
date = 07-29-2008
accessdate = 2008-08-04] cite news
title =Commentary: Texas Slowdown
date = 04-30-2001
accessdate = 2008-08-04] . However, the sanctioning body was commended by many for chosing not to put its drivers in danger. [ [http://espn.go.com/rpm/2001/0429/1188550.html Cup drivers identify with CART brethren] ] The race was largely viewed as a debacle, a low point for the slumping series,cite news
title =Champ Car Revistied
accessdate = 2008-08-04] and very damaging to the organization in the months and years to come. CART reported that it spent $3.5 million for the settlement and legal costs, resulting in a $1.7 million loss for the third quarter of 2001. CART declared bankrupcy and was sold in 2003, became known as
Champ Car, and never attempted to return to Texas Motor Speedway. Ultimately it was absorbed into the Indy Racing Leaguein 2008.
* [http://www.champcarworldseries.com/Event/Events.asp?ID=401 Champ Car information on race]
Champ Car World Series race report
Firestone Firehawk 600
Year_of_race = 2001
Previous_race_in_season = 2001 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Next_race_in_season = 2001 Lehigh Valley Grand Prix
Previous_year's_race = - Not Held -
Next_year's_race = - Not Held -
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