The NTT Indycar series reaches the halfway point of the season with Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600k at Texas Motor Speedway. The race also ends a grueling five week stretch for the teams and drivers that started May 10 with the Indycar Grand Prix. There is a test at Road America next week, and the race there is June 22-24.
Texas over the years has had horrific crashes and controversy. In 1997, Billy Boat won the race driving for A. J. Foyt. Arie Luyenduyk confronted Foyt in Victory Lane claiming he had won. Foyt slapped Luyendyk. A review showed that Luyendyk had indeed won. Foyt stil has the trophy. It was the last Indycar race that USAC officiated. Simona de Silvestro was involved in a horrible crash in 2010 and her car came to rest on fire. It took several minutes for the rescue team to reach her car. In 2017, a multi-car wreck which caused a red flag resulted in lots of finger pointing among drivers and teams.
The weekend really began last night with a night practice. The practice also served as test to decide which of two tire compounds cars will use in the race.
Last night’s practice was cut short by rain at about 8:50 EDT. The drivers got about 35 minutes actual practice. the first few minutes were spent practicing pit exit with the two stage limiter in effect for this race.
Scott Dixon was fastest in the short practice session with a lap at 219.3 mph. Today’s schedule: All times Eastern
Pit Stop Practice and Practice 2 2:30-4:00 NBC Gold
Qualifying 6:45-7:45 NBC Sports and NBC Gold
This weekend’s race could either help drivers close in on points leader Josef Newgarden or put someone too far back to contend the rest of the year.
Since 2011, only three drivers who have won this race went on to win the championship the same season. Scott Dixon has done it three times, last year, 2015, and 2008. Dario Franchitti won the race and the title in 2011. Helio Castroneves has won four times, and Dixon has three victories.
Winning the pole at Texas doesn’t mean race success, either. In the 30 previous races, only five drivers won from the pole- Sam Hornish, Jr. in 20001, Gil de Ferran in 2003, Helio Castroneves in 2004, and Tomas Scheckter in 2005; Scott Dixon is the last driver to win from pole in 2008. Power has won the pole three times in three straight years- 2013-2015.
Daly’s Second Start
Conor Daly makes his second start of the season, driving for Carlin Racing. he replaces Max Chilton, who has decided not to drive on the remaining ovals this year. Daly finished 10th in the Indianapolis 500 driving for Andretti Autosport. He drove for Carlin ‘s GP 3 program in 2011.
In 2016 at Texas Daly was involved in crash with Josef Newgarden. Newgarden was injured but still was able to race at road America two weeks later. The 2016 race was later halted by rain after 78 laps and finished in August.
Strong Track for Penske
Four of the last six poles at TMS have been won by a Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden won the pole last year. Power, as previously stated, won the pole from 2013-15. Race results for Penske have been mixed, with only two wins in the last six years. The most recent win was by Power in 2017.
With all three Penske drivers fighting for the title,and possibly the win, the drivers will be taking points from each other, leaving an opening for Dixon or Alexander Rossi to gain ground.
How the Yellows Fall
The outcome of the race usually comes down to when the last yellow flag falls and who survives the attrition this track seems to produce. A caution with less than ten laps to go will result in cars behind the leader going to the pits for fresh tires. The leader is stuck maintaining his position. His only hope is for a yellow with three laps left.
The rain shortened practice may make tires more of a question mark. this was the only practice that was at the same time of day as the race. At that, just a few minutes after the green flag time, the rain began.
Firestone brought a different right front in case their first choice blistered. The hope is that tire wear will be more of a factor this year. it may be another race where the last driver to get fresh tires wins.
At the season’s halfway point, I have a choice. i can get a prediction right or run the table and continue to get them all wrong. I will try to get at least one right.
Like Detroit last week, this race could be another good day for Dallara. I just hope it is a safe race.
Look for Quick Thoughts after qualifying and the race here and a full race report on Sunday on Wildfire Sports.