Originally created 06/12/04

Texas could lose second IRL race



FORT WORTH, Texas -- The self-proclaimed second home of the Indy Racing League could lose the IndyCar Series season finale after this year.

Last month, Texas Motor Speedway was awarded a long-desired second NASCAR Nextel Cup race. Beginning in 2005, TMS will hold its regular Cup race in early April with the new fall race the first weekend of November.

Texas has hosted two IRL races each year since 1998, a June night race following the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.

The Bombardier 500 on Saturday will be the 14th IRL race at Texas, more than any other track. The season finale will be run at the 1 1/2 -mile, high-banked quad-oval Oct. 17.

That second NASCAR race would likely be in proximity to the IRL season finale, though the open-wheel series won't complete its 2005 schedule until late July.

TMS president Eddie Gossage met this week with IRL president Tony George and other league officials about future schedules. No final decisions were made.

"If they can give us sufficient spacing and still have a finale, we are interested in having the second (IRL) date," Gossage said. "Can they accommodate? I don't know."

IRL spokesman John Griffin said Friday that the series is considering expanding from 16 to 20 races, including the possible addition of some road courses. And Nazareth Speedway will host its last IRL race in August.

"There are a lot of factors to take into consideration," Griffin said.

Texas officials would like at least five or six weeks between events, and that would push the IRL up into September. That could be difficult to accomplish if the IRL expands its schedule, unless more races are run in March and April before the Indianapolis 500.

-- HORNISH HONEYMOON: A motorcoach on the infield at Texas Motor Speedway probably isn't what Sam Hornish Jr.'s new wife always dreamed of for a honeymoon suite.

But it wasn't unexpected.

After dating for four years, the couple married last Saturday in Indianapolis. They spent their first days of marriage while the two-time IRL champion prepared for Saturday night's race in Texas.

"I knew from the start this is where we were going to spend our honeymoon," Crystal Hornish said Friday.

Speedway officials Friday gave the newlyweds a bottle of champagne and a plate chocolate-covered strawberries. And across the front of the coach, they hung a banner that read "Texas Motor Speedway Honeymoon Suite, Please Do Not Disturb."

The couple plans to spend a few days in Las Vegas after the race. But the driver has to return to work for testing Tuesday.

"That's not a whole lot of time there either, but we'll do something at the end of the year," Hornish said. "We have the whole rest of our lives to spend together, so we'll figure something out."

SCHECKTER SPEED: Tomas Scheckter sat on the pole for the last two IRL summer races in Texas. He's starting eighth this time after a disappointing qualifying run of 207.725 mph.

But Scheckter was back up to speed during practice Friday, turning the best overall lap in one session at 210.618 mph.

"We passed some Hondas, which feels good in a Chevy," he said. "We made some good changes overnight, and today the car seems to be very good in traffic."

Honda-powered cars hold the top five spots on the starting grid.