The Texas two-step for the IndyCar Series, along with Sprint Cup and Nationwide races under the lights on the first of the track's two NASCAR weekends, were the biggest changes revealed Tuesday night for TMS's 15th season of racing.
For the first time in the IndyCar Series, and first time in major U.S. open-wheel racing since 1981, there will be two races on one day. The Firestone Twin 275s at Texas on June 11, dual races with two different winners, will replace the single 550-kilometer (342 miles) at the track.
"The concept has Indy car history to it, but at the same time provides a new dynamic event to our fans as well as the drivers themselves," TMS president Eddie Gossage said. "It should be a tremendous show."
There have been only 17 twin races in the history of U.S. open-wheel racing including CART and USAC. All of those dual races were between 1967 and 1981, the last a CART-sanctioned event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves said "probably in go-karts" was the only time he ever ran more than one race in the same day. He expects there to be constant competition with two shorter races.
"It's a great idea," Castroneves said. "It's definitely going to be a sprint. People are going to be trying everything they can to get the win. But the interesting thing is, if you don't have a very good car the first run it gives you another opportunity and challenge."
Before dual races in its first event after the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar Series has restored the week off between its two most-attended races. The break after Indianapolis was standard in the league's schedule from Texas' inaugural 1997 season through 2005.
The first of Texas' two Sprint Cup races next year will be April 9, and is the first night race of the 2011 season in NASCAR's top series.
That pushes the spring Nationwide race back to Friday night — that race has been on Saturday afternoon since the track's inception. Sprint Cup qualifying will be earlier that Friday.
"I've been around NASCAR racing at night my entire life — from attending night races in Nashville to promoting night races at Bristol and Charlotte — and I've always found them to be electric," Gossage said. "We've always wanted one here."
Unchanged at Texas is the NASCAR tripleheader weekend in the fall with Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck races.
Texas, the eighth of 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, is in its regular Sunday afternoon spot, on Nov. 6, 2011. The Nationwide Series race is that Saturday afternoon, after the truck race Friday night.
"Having the largest crowd and purse of all the 10 tracks in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, there wasn't a need to make a dramatic change (that) weekend," Gossage said.
Randy Bernard, in his first season as the Indy Racing League's CEO, said after he took the job he inquired with league officials and historians about different formats that had been used in the past. Some suggested trying a doubleheader again.
Then Gossage, the Texas showman promoter, brought up the idea to Bernard.
"I think everybody is willing and wanting to try something new that creates some new excitement for the series," Bernard said. "We want to make sure we make this as an exciting and as compelling of an event as we possibly can."
Texas is the only track where twin races will be run in 2011, but Bernard didn't dismiss the possibility of more in the future.
"We just have to see how it turns out here," Bernard said. "I don't want to take away anything ever from this event. I won't tell you I wouldn't do it. If it's successful, it could be something we would do again."
NASCAR chairman-CEO Brian France and Sprint Cup driver-owner Tony Stewart also appeared at the track's announcement party held at the House of Blues with more than 1,000 season-ticket holders.
After the announcements, including Gossage telling fans their season tickets would cost 10 percent less next year and that they would get cheaper concessions, they were also treated to a concert by the Goo Goo Dolls.