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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Texas to Host First Open-Wheel Doubleheader in 30 Years

The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule got a little more interesting yesterday, with the announcement of the Firestone Texas Two Step, to be held at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11 of next year.

What was once the Firestone 550k - a 228-lap, 342-mile race under the lights the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 - will become the Firestone Twin 275s, two full-field races that will each count for half points towards next year's championships. The series and track have not yet decided on how to set the field for either of the two races, nor have they settled on a time allotment between both races, though it seems likely that there will be a day race and a night race.

The race weekend has also been moved back one week, re-establishing the traditional off week between Indy and Texas that existed from 1997 to 2005. That slot was filled by Milwaukee from 2007 to 2009, assuming the track's former Champ Car date. Milwaukee was left off this year's schedule due to outstanding fees owed to multiple sanctioning bodies.

It will be the first American open-wheel doubleheader in nearly 30 years, the last coming on June 28, 1981 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway under CART sanctioning. Rick Mears swept both of those races. All in all, since 1967, 17 doubleheaders were held, the first 13 under USAC sanctioning. 10 of those 17 doubleheaders were swept by a single driver, including the first six USAC doubleheaders and three of the four held under CART sanctioning.

Doubleheaders are also a staple of many European feeder series to Formula 1. Usually, these consist of a sprint race and a feature race, though they normally award the same amount of points.

The idea of returning the doubleheader to IndyCar is not too strange, nor has it been all too long since it was last suggested. In fact, promoters for Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport were attempting to use the idea to bring open-wheel racing back to the track for the first time since Champ Car's final hurrah in 2007. The difference there, however, was that one race would take place on the traditional road course layout, while the other would be run on a brand-new oval layout.

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