FORT WORTH, TX – Qualifying for Saturday’s DXC Technology 600 (8 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) may prove to be more important than initially thought. After the lone two practice sessions of the race weekend, drivers are saying that the 248 Lap race could be a single file parade.
That’s why despite Honda seeing six drivers in the top seven on the speed charts in final practice, they’re going to have to have a lot of luck to make it through the three Team Penske drivers and Tony Kanaan on Saturday.
Scott Dixon ended up P1 in the night session circling the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway with a lap of 220.524 mph in his No. 9 Honda. But, Dixon rolls off seventh tomorrow night and could have a difficult time moving his way past the six cars in front.
Some drivers say there will be limited passing, others like Dixon say that he thinks a couple more grooves could come in as the race goes on.
“I don’t know,” Dixon said of whether he thinks there will be much passing on Saturday night. “I passed a few cars out there. I think he (Tony Kanaan) did, too. I think the conditions will get a lot better. The second groove I think in three and four is going to come in pretty quickly. One and two, we might have to wait a little longer than what we saw in the past.
“It’s so tough to predict. You know, there was a bit of a group text going on earlier today between a lot of the drivers. Last year nobody predicted it was going to be a pack race. I was watching the race last night, by the end of the first stint, it was pretty much a pack race.
“I think it’s kind of a similar situation to what we found last year. Yeah, okay, the track has degraded a little bit, probably lost a little bit of grip. But Firestone in turn brought a little softer tire, which I think will help.
“Yeah, we’re down a good amount on downforce. IndyCar has a tough job to try to find the happy medium. Sometimes they might get it. Sometimes they might miss it.
“For me personally I’d rather it be on the driver side of it and safety side of it as opposed to having a big pack race and a lot of yahoos that are trying silly things.”
The race last year that he was referring too saw the most lead changes (23) since there were 32 in 2001. With this new car though, the downforce levels are lowered significantly. That has created better racing on road/street courses while the ovals are still tough to figure out. Phoenix may have had more overall passes this year compared to last, but the racing up front itself was just as bad as its always been.
The Indy 500 this year was a far different race than what we saw from 2012 to 2017. Yes, there were 30 lead changes, but most of those came on restarts or during green flag pit sequences.
With Texas, the weather despite being at night is going to be just as hot as the Indy 500 was. That means the conditions are going to be similar which means that despite getting a little more downforce on the rear wing this weekend at Texas compared to Indy, it’s still going looking like it’s going to be difficult to pass.
Tony Kanaan was quickest in the first practice session this afternoon and qualified his No. 14 Chevrolet sixth said that despite being second quick in final practice (220.418 mph) that he wouldn’t be shocked if he finishes tomorrow where he starts.
“Will be tough,” Kanaan said of Saturday’s race. “I think I don’t like what I see, but I don’t make the rules. I’ll just drive whatever they give it to me. I’m not happy. That’s it. I haven’t seen anybody passing anybody, so I don’t know. Maybe I finish sixth tomorrow. Starting sixth, we finish sixth. Can’t pass anybody.
“I mean, I have my own opinions. I don’t want to debate on it because I’m going to create too much. Yes, we go from a pack race to a no-passing race. I think it’s going to be boring for the fans. I don’t think that’s what we want to show people here. Apparently that’s just my opinion. People that make the rules understand a lot more than the drivers, I guess.”
When asked if he thinks that the tire fall off could create more passing at the end of stints, Kanaan said that he I think so but warned that we will see guys that are going to be running around at 190 miles an hour as a result of that.
“I don’t think that’s what we’re here for.”
He’s not alone in this assessment. Most of the paddock sides with how Kanaan than Dixon.
In the final one hour practice, Sebastien Bourdais was third fastest in his No. 18 Honda turning in a lap of 220.165 mph. He will start fifth on Saturday. The Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing duo of Takuma Sato (219.793 mph) and Graham Rahal (219.557 mph) rounded out the top five.
The session went caution free as several laps were turned by all.
Final Practice Results
- 9 Dixon 220.524
- 14 Kanaan 220.418
- 18 Bourdais 220.165
- 30 Sato 219.795
- 15 Rahal 219.557
- 6 Wickens R 219.549
- 27 Rossi 219.005
- 1 Newgarden 218.332
- 10 Jones 218.253
- 26 Veach R 218.132
- 88 Chaves 218.110
- 12 Power 218.019
- 22 Pagenaud 217.988
- 98 Andretti 217.927
- 23 Kimball 217.625
- 28 Hunter-Reay 217.303
- 4 Leist R 216.484
- 20 Carpenter 216.445
- 59 Chilton 215.521
- 5 Hinchcliffe 215.348
- 21 Pigot 215.211
- 19 Claman DeMelo 214.434