The 2011 IndyCar outing at Texas Motor Speedway is being revamped, with the Firestone 550K being replaced by a new Firestone Twin 275s doubleheader event in June.
Instead of the traditional single long race, the event will consist of two separate races each of half-distance, each of which will pay out half the usual points (25pts for the winner) and bonus prize money ($17,500 for first place).
The twin race format is one that was used by IndyCar around the end of the 1960s and briefly revived by CART a decade later but has not been seen in the competition since 1981.
The first race will run fairly normally with pit boxes set by performances in the preceding oval race (the Indy 500) and the starting grid being decided by regular qualifying sessions the day before, but the second race will have a starting order determined by a blind draw conducted immediately after race 1, which means there will be no pole position bonus point awarded for race 2.
Teams will have an hour between the races to carry out adjustments and any running repairs necessary.
"With the starting field for the second race set by random draw, you could see the winner from the first race starting from the back of the field, creating quite a bit of drama," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for IndyCar. "If a car suffers damage and fails to finish the first race, there will be an opportunity for the driver to rejoin in the second race as we will have extra engines available for use in their back-up chassis.
"We want to make sure we're ensuring a strong field for Race 2 to keep the excitement and momentum going throughout the entire event."
The shake-up of the long-standing June Texas event is an attempt to counter complaints that the long-distance event can flag in the middle as drivers simply "put in the laps" before things get competitive toward the end. A similar discussion has been taking place in NASCAR with some top drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. saying that race distances have to be reduced to improve the spectacle for fans.
"You have to love the open-mindedness of the IndyCar officials for randomly selecting the starting lineup of the second Firestone Twin 275," said Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage. "It guarantees a real jumble, an incredible shootout in the second race. Different strategies are going to be employed for each race. What a night of racing this will be."
The dusk/night time races will take place on the evening of June 11 starting at 6pm local time.
The 1.5-mile banked oval Texas Motor Speedway at Fort Worth has been one of IndyCar's most visited circuits, having been used twice a season seven times since it opened in 1997 for a total of 21 appearances on the IndyCar calendar.
The circuit did not exist last time IndyCar staged any twin race double-header events. There were four such twin races held in 1968 and three in 1969, a total of 13 between 1967 and 1974 before they fell into disuse. The CART series revived the format with three races in 1979 and one further, final twin race at Atlanta in June 1981 which saw Rick Mears score a clean sweep.
In all 17 races, the running order for the second race was determined by the finishing order of the first, so the 'blind draw' will be a wholly new element in the proceedings.