FORT WORTH, Texas — The cars aren't on track yet at Texas Motor Speedway, but soon they will be as the 2018 season officially kicked off Wednesday with media day at the track’s Speedway Club, where a few of the big names in motorsports came to talk about their favorite parts of being here in Texas but also what to expect come race time.
"With all the young guys coming in mixing with the veterans, it’s just a great, great time for our sport," said TMS president Eddie Gossage.
The return of NASCAR’s top 3 series (Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Monster Energy Cup Series) plus the Verizon IndyCar series are the big headliner’s for the 2018 season once more. But for guys like last year’s truck series race winner and season champion Christopher Bell, and 5-time IndyCar series winner James Hinchcliffe — it's what's off the track that also headlines their yearly visit. Even some bucket list items.
"Wataburger is good,” Bell said smiling when asked about his must-haves come race weekend. “We have that in Oklahoma growing up, but honestly In-and-Out is really good, so whenever I come to Texas, it's about In-and-Out for me."
Some still working on their favorite activity, like IndyCar’s charismatic James Hinchcliffe. "Professional Bull riding,” he said. “I know that’s pretty stereotypical when you think Texas but I have so much respect for those guys -- they're out of their mind. I definitely have done the mechanical bull at a couple bars (laughs) and had some good experiences and some bad ones, but it would be cool to try the real thing."
But a place like TMS, rich in racing history, also brings back memories of their own racing roots.
"As a kid I used to come down here and run the dirt tracks all over the area and pass by this place,” said Bell. “I always wondered if I'd get the opportunity to race at the speedway."
Just like Abilene Speedway, Bell – like many of the up-and-coming superstars – got his start on the small local tracks on Saturday nights. And whether you're a rising star, or 18 year veteran with a Daytona 500 and NASCAR Cup Series championship, it’s something you still appreciate.
That is the grass roots style and that's where you get your base built and the foundation of who you are as a racer -- comes from your first track and your first racing experience,” said the 2017 Daytona 500 champion for Steward-Haas Racing. “And it was fun to race with my dad back then in Vegas, and we went there to win."
"If you're able to win, make sure that you capitalize on them and win races,” Bell added about the key to finding success on the local level. “Then whenever you get opportunities, you just have to keep making the most of them and keep climbing that ladder."
It’s that talent that rises to become someone like James Hinchcliffe, who in his native country of Canada, was a part of some of the most competitive starting series out there.
"When the competition is really good at the bottom level -- the grass roots level, that's what actually produces the best drivers and champions at the highest levels,” he said.
And now, with the season at TMS set to begin in April, all that knowledge learned will be put back to the test in year 2 of the track’s repave.
"Yeah this place is tough,” smiled Busch. “When you make a mistake, you usually hit pretty hard. The new surface was a challenge last year and I’m sure it will continue to be that way as we figure it out."
"It's just one of those place, you know, its special,” added Hinchcliffe. “The night race is always fun, the action is always pretty high, and I think it's going to be pretty good."
Below are the three race weekends for NASCAR and IndyCar at Texas Motor Speedway.
Sat. April 7 – My Bariatric Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
Sun. April 8 – O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Race
Fri. June 8 – Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race
Sat. June 9 – DXC Technology 600 Verizon IndyCar Series Race
Fri. November 2 – Jag Metals 350 Camping World Truck Series Race
Sat. November 3 – O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
Sun. November 4 – AAA Texas 500 Monster Energy Cup Series Race