By STEPHEN HAWKINS, Associated Press
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Will Power has certainly been good in the IndyCar Series' new car, winning three of the four races this season.
All of those were on road and street courses.
IndyCar drivers are now preparing for the Indianapolis 500, their first race on an oval since Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas in last October's season finale. An open test Monday at Texas provided an indication of how the new cars with less downforce will perform on oval tracks, especially when teams have more flexibility in setups.
"What we're trying to do is try to ensure that it's not a pack race like it has been in the past, and like it was in Vegas," Power said.
Wheldon was killed when his car sailed into the fence in a 15-car accident, and his head hit a post in the fence. A report later determined that pack racing on a high-banked oval contributed to the accident.
Texas was the IndyCar's first open test on a 1½-mile track since Wheldon's accident. The Indianapolis 500 will be the first of four oval races in a five-week span.
Texas, which hosts the series on June 9, is a high-banked oval like the Las Vegas track also owned by Bruton Smith.
"There's always concern, especially after what happened in Vegas," Scott Dixon said.
But Dixon said he isn't worried about racing on the high-banked ovals "as long as we come to these places and everybody gets together as a group" to determine how to create a little bit of separation on the track.
Dixon believes that giving teams more setup options should also help make a difference.
"Going back to the fact that I think the car has a lot of range of options, I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest," Dixon said. "We have options. It's not like the previous, where we were sort of locked in and backed into a corner."
When there are limited options, cars will often be more similar and that can make it harder for them to get away from each other.
Power was happy to have the Texas test, and the chance to drive the new car on an oval before getting the 2½-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It's felt pretty good, pretty solid," Power said.
Dixon had the fastest of the 1,172 combined laps at 212.371 mph Monday. During the Texas twin races last June, the fastest lap was 216.263 mph.
"They look like Indy cars, sound like Indy cars, race like Indy cars," Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. "The car looks kind of cool, more bodywork to it and you can see them better."
Only five of the 16 races this season will be on ovals in IndyCar, which used to be an all-oval series.
"I feel that the entire community of IndyCar Series has been working together so that we spend time thinking properly so that when we go back next year, we can attack the ovals the way in the past used to be," said three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who has also won three times at Texas. "And most important, safe for us, and have a great show for the fans as well. But right not, it's a big question mark."
Castroneves even moved his index finger in the shape of a question mark on the desk in front of him. But he also said he believed everybody was working together to have great races.
Ryan Briscoe, one of three drivers that at a closed IndyCar test at Texas earlier this year, also took part in Monday's test that ended with some packs of four cars running together.
"All this testing is really aimed at the style of racing and make sure we don't come back and have everyone just running easy wide open," Briscoe said. "You want to have to actually set the thing up and drive it, and not anybody with any car just do it easily.
"That's how it was in Vegas, anyone could run fast," he said. "It wasn't challenging, and you forgot you were doing 220 mph with cars on all corners of you. ... We've definitely gone away from that."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.