Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway (8:30 ET, ABC) could look slightly different from the 2012 version as IndyCar has reportedly taken away 300 lbs. of downforce from the cars' oval package.
Adding to the changing formula is that Firestone will bring a completely different tire compound to the Firestone 550k, giving the paddock a real sense of mystery heading into the first superspeedway event of the season.
(Indianapolis is flat and might provide a better preview for next month's return to Pocono International Raceway.)
This isn't the first time that drivers will head into Texas not knowing what to expect as the final race package for last year's event wasn't approved until the day of the race. That weekend was under heavy scrutiny as it was the first superspeedway event since Dan Wheldon lost his life in an accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011.
IndyCar had hoped to eliminate the big packs that the previous car and downforce package generated but needed a few more adjustments beyond the new car after watching the first practice session. The final product successfully spread the cars out and presented one of the better races at Texas with Justin Wilson taking the win after Graham Rahal hit the wall, as the leader in the closing laps.
As Rahal painfully discovered, the new aerodynamic package with decreased downforce was much harder to drive. With even less downforce expected on Saturday, the cars will be even more challenging to drive and IndyCar hopes -- more entertaining to watch.
"It's going to be interesting," Wilson said during a Wednesday conference call. "They took the downforce away, made it harder to drive. But that was good because we weren't flat out. This year, I've been told they've taken even more downforce away, so I think we've lost another 300 pounds, if I'm correct.
"I think that's going to make it even more challenging."
Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan agrees, finding the separated cars to be a safer form of driving as well as a better show. While he wasn't aware of the downforce changes, he likes the idea on paper and is anxious to test it out on Friday afternoon.
"I think we all want separation," Kanaan said. "We don't want a pack race. The only way to create some of that is to take downforce out of the car. I think my biggest concern was always being in a pack race. This is going to help to spread the field out, so I'm excited about it."