FORT WORTH, Texas The annual Texas Motor Speedway media day came and went Tuesday with Izod IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal part of the show.
Rahal spent part of his media availability talking up the racing at TMS and certainly didn't sound like a driver who was considering boycotting the June 9 Firestone 550 at TMS.
A rumored boycott by the drivers because of concerns about safety at the track was something that was never considered according to Rahal.
"In the drivers' association that has never been discussed," Rahal said. "I think there's been a lot made of it. If they called anybody else to see if was true, everybody else would have said no."
The boycott story centered on the concerns over the fencing at TMS, which is similar to that of the fencing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was in Las Vegas last year that IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was killed in an accident in which his head hit a pole on the fencing.
Rahal said the IndyCar series has been at the forefront of safety initiatives, including the SAFER barrier and the HANS device. He said that figuring out how to work on making a safer fence should be high on that list too.
"We've stopped innovating a little bit," Rahal said. "We've got to find a way to develop the next thing. The next obvious thing is fencing. It doesn't just help us."
TMS president Eddie Gossage said he never heard from a driver or official in the series about concerns over the fencing. When drivers did raise issues about the aprons in Turns 1 and 2, the track decided to pave the area in question. He said the track has also talked to engineers about the fencing at TMS.
Gossage said he didn't even know there were any concerns at all until he saw a report on a Web site.
"We're going to do what's right," Gossage said. "We're never going to compromise safety. I don't know why a speedway that had two races with one caution last year was suddenly the target. We're the only people that have had any engineers look at it. I think everybody has a better handle on it. They say they never talked about a boycott. That's great. I just know what I read."
The race is one of the most important on the schedule for the series. It's one of the best-attended races in the series and has a history of fantastic finishes. Sixteen of the Indy races have been decided by less than a second.
Gossage understands how important safety is in racing and it's something that shouldn't be taken lightly. But he also said emotion can't factor in a decision like whether or not to race at a track.
"You can have emotional feelings about it but the solution is a fact-based solution," he said. "I'm emotional about Dan because I cared a lot about Dan. He was a good guy, a good friend, just everything about him and it was so tragic. But when you start talking about now what, that has to be based solely on facts. Solely."
Defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart raced Indy cars at Texas in 1997 and 1998 and has never had an issue with safety at the track. He ran wide open during testing the first time he was at the track and was singing into his radio headset.
"We've ran IndyCar races here and never had a problem," Stewart said. "The races here at Texas are probably ones with the IRL that I really like to watch the most. It's probably the most competitive races right here. There's nothing wrong with this place."