FORT WORTH, Texas – For the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, Friday’s final practice for the DXC Technology 600 was like the last chance to study for a big exam. Some feel they’re prepared, some aren’t so sure.
Scott Dixon, a two-time winner at Texas Motor Speedway, led a busy 60-minute Friday twilight session with a lap of 220.524 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It was the last opportunity for teams and drivers to dial in their setups before Saturday night’s 248-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval.
DXC TECHNOLOGY 600: Practice 2 results; Combined results
Dixon, who qualified seventh earlier in the day, came away pleased.
“Worked on the car tonight (and the) car felt pretty good,” the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion said. “As the track temp comes down (in the evening), it definitely helps a lot. But, yeah, just trying to hang onto the tires as long as possible. I think it's going to be the key for tomorrow.”
Tony Kanaan was second fastest in the session but not nearly as positive as his friend and former teammate Dixon. The 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion – the same year he won his only race at Texas – clocked a lap of 220.418 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
“I'm not happy,” Kanaan said bluntly, expressing concern about not being able to practice at night since Saturday’s race won’t see the green flag wave until 8:45 p.m. ET.
“We haven't practiced in the conditions we going to have in the race, and they ask us to predict (how the car will handle),” Kanaan said. “If you’re extremely uncomfortable at 120-130 degrees track temp (in daylight) and you’re going to race tomorrow night, it's going to be 40 degrees cooler. It's kind of hard to predict. It's hard to give anybody feedback what's good or bad.”
The 22 entries spent a lot of time trying to sort things out in the practice, turning nearly 1,500 laps combined. Takuma Sato, who was fourth fastest in the session (219.793 mph), made 95 trips around the track in the No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Simon Pagenaud, who will start the race from the outside of Row 1, turned 89 laps in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.
Teams were still trying to come to grips with the how the universal aero kit on the Texas oval that was repaved and reconfigured in Turn 2 a year ago. With the 2018 car producing less downforce and forcing the tires to work harder, hitting the right setup is proving to be a moving target.
“I think at the end of the day we all have the same thing, so you just have to be best at it and find ways to be the best,” Pagenaud said. “It's definitely not easy, but we don't want it to be easy for everyone because everybody could do it. You want to deserve your seat. You want to deserve your position as a racecar driver.
“I think today it's definitely tough, but I welcome the chance.”
Drivers and engineers will scratch their heads late into the night coming up with the car setups they believe will work best – at least at the beginning of the race. It will certainly be interesting.
Live coverage begins on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.