Wednesday, 18 August 2010 18:37
Bobby Unser vividly remembers winning both ends of an Indy car doubleheader in June 1979 at Trenton, N.J., while prevailing in the second of twin 126 mile races five weeks later at Michigan International after starting 18th was particularly memorable to the three time Indianapolis 500 champion.
"It's two completely different races, which is exciting for the drivers and fans. It was like a trophy dash; just run like heck for however many miles it was and then come in and redo the car," Unser said.
On June 11, 2011, the IZOD IndyCar Series and Texas Motor Speedway will revisit the exciting twin race format on the same evening.
The Firestone Texas Two-Step was introduced Aug. 17 by IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, three time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage before a crowd of more than 1,600 at the House of Blues in Dallas.
The newly named Firestone Twin 275s, formerly the Firestone 550k, will consist of two full field 275 kilometre races (171 miles/114 laps each) with two race winners being recognized by the sanctioning body.
Half points will be awarded in both races, how the starting field for either or both races on the 1.5 mile oval, along with the time allotment between races, is still to be determined, according to IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart.
"I think it is important that we elevate all of our races to give them a big event feel," said Bernard, noting the format will be a first for the series and racetrack.
"Eddie Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway certainly are taking things to the next level with the Firestone Texas Two-Step doubleheader. It was a concept that was first run by USAC in the 1960's, so it plays on an Indy car tradition but also brings a new no limits feel to the event."
"Texas has been known for producing some of the most exciting races on the circuit, so fans will be able to double their fun in 2011."
The Texas date will be the first race following the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and return the off week between the events that was scheduled from Texas Motor Speedway's inaugural 1997 season through 2005.
The IZOD IndyCar Series has raced at the facility in Fort Worth, Texas, 21 times, including twice in the same season seven times.
"We have a special racing season in store for the fans of Texas Motor Speedway. Randy and I discussed hosting twin races when he first took the job heading the Indy Racing League. The concept has Indy car history to it, but at the same time provides a new dynamic event to our fans as well as the drivers themselves," Gossage said.
"Texas Motor Speedway traditionally has hosted some of the series' most exciting races and the Firestone Twin 275s' format should provide plenty more in the future. Drivers have two shots at winning and fans get an opportunity to see not one but two great races in one evening. It should be a tremendous show."
There were 17 doubleheaders (nine on ovals) under USAC and CART sanction from 1967-1981, with a driver sweeping both races 10 times. The grid for the second race was determined by finishing order in the first contest in all 17 events.
On July 15, 1979, at the 2 mile Michigan International Speedway, Unser started from the pole and led eight of the first 21 laps in the first of the Norton Twin 125s before the Penske Norton Spirit PC-9 blew an engine.
"There wasn't much time between races," Unser said. "In our particular case, we had to change the engine so the mechanics had to really work fast."
Starting 18th of 21 in the second race, Unser worked his way to the front and led the final 35 laps. Tom Sneva finished second and Al Unser third. Gordon Johncock, who won the first race and started from the pole in the second, finished fourth.
"I just had to guess at everything, start the race and if it was OK then I guess I was pretty good," Unser said. "I guess I was pretty good."