Alexander Rossi

A swarm of bees made their presence felt in a section on pit lane, but it was Arrow McLaren that was buzzing after opening day of on-track action for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at Texas Motor Speedway.

The NTT P1 Award for the PPG 375 went to Felix Rosenqvist for a second consecutive year after pushing his No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet to a two-lap average pace of 220.264 mph around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. Uniquely, all four of the Swede’s pole positions have come at only two tracks: Texas Motor Speedway (2022, ’23) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (2019, ’22).

Additionally, Alexander Rossi qualified the team’s No. 7 entry third, with Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 machine ending up fifth.

For Rossi, in particular, racing at TMS has been feast or famine with two podiums, including a runner-up in 2019, but also three early retirements. After coming off a fourth-place finish in his debut with the team last month at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, along with Arrow McLaren having shown strength at Texas in the past – notably O’Ward’s win in 2021 – Rossi is salivating over the shot at a potential victory for Sunday’s 250-lap race (noon ET on NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

“It's funny, of the races I've finished here, we've been pretty good, but unfortunately, I haven't finished very many of them for a multitude of reasons,” Rossi said. “But yeah, I think that the team's success and pedigree here speaks for itself. The performance that they've had here has been very strong, as strong as the best, if not the best. So, for me to be able to have the opportunity to jump into that package with a relatively unchanged baseline structure of the track, the car and everything, is a great opportunity for us to really capitalize on a strong first race.”

Malukas the Mentor

David Malukas only has 18 career starts in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, with five of those coming on ovals. However, the fresh-faced 21-year-old is the incumbent team leader at Dale Coyne Racing with HMD who is mentoring rookie Sting Ray Robb, making his series oval debut at Texas.

While that might seem like a daunting task for Malukas, driver of the No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with HMD, there was invaluable experience learned last year from former teammate and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato. In turn, Malukas is paying it forward in helping his newest teammate get up to speed in the No. 51 biohaven Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.

“Coming from last year – my rookie season – having a veteran in Takuma, which was really helpful and so nice; he helped me so much,” said Malukas, who finished 11th last year in his oval initiation at TMS. “At least for me, I was trying to absorb all the information that he had as much as I could into one season. But going into this year, now I'm supposedly the veteran. I'm an open book to Sting Ray. Thankfully from the first race that we've had and practice sessions that he's done, our car that we want is very, very similar to each other. So, we can actually work with each other, do different setups. In that sort of sense, I do think it's going to be very helpful. Any information I have car setup and driving wise, I think it'll help him. The quicker he gets up to speed, the better it's going to be for us overall as a team.”

Malukas qualified ninth for Sunday’s race, while Robb ended up 23rd.

Ferrucci Eyes More in Full-Time Return to Lone Star State

A year ago, Santino Ferrucci showed up on race day at Texas as a substitute for an injured Jack Harvey for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, ending up with a ninth-place finish despite starting last (27th) and only having a handful of warm-up laps to get acclimated.

Now, Ferrucci returns as a full-time driver of the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing and has every session at his disposal at the team’s home race. Coming into the weekend, confidence is high for the Dallas resident, who finished a career-best fourth at Texas in 2019.

“In theory, you look at it on paper and be like, 'Yeah, I should smoke the field,’ but you show up on Sunday,” Ferrucci said. “You got 20 cars that are capable of winning this race. Last year, I felt like the best we could have done was sixth. Obviously, I would've loved to have finished in that top five and just not having that experience. I honestly struggled getting the car into the pit box, and that was the biggest feat.

“Not having that issue this year and actually having some practice, it would be nice. I think a top 10 for us would be a solid finish, but there's no doubt in my mind we can show up on Sunday and win this race, 100%. But I feel like there's 20 other cars sitting there, same deal.”

Ferrucci starts 14th Sunday.

RLL Faces Texas-Sized Challenge

It would be polite to say the Texas weekend has been a challenge thus far for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

The combination of Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey qualified 24th, 27th, and 28th, respectively. Those results came after an opening practice that saw the trio finish the final three spots in the 28-car running order.

Lundgaard, driver of the No. 45 Hy-Vee Redbox Rx Honda, and the rest of the team are searching for answers.

“I wish I could tell you, but honestly we don't really know,” Lundgaard said. “So, that's the biggest struggle right now. We came into this weekend knowing that our qualifying pace last year was too slow, found some good improvements in the car, but it doesn't seem to translate once we actually get on track. So, that's a little disappointing. It's done now, now we've got to focus on tomorrow.”

‘We Talkin’ Bout Practice’

Yes, we are Allen Iverson.

Ahead of final practice was a special high-line session, which saw the field of 28 drivers divided in half with each running 15 minutes in the second lane. The outcome carried over for some drivers in final practice, particularly defending race winner Josef Newgarden.

The only incident in the high-line session came from Conor Daly, who ended up in a wild spin after his No. 20 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing found a bump in Turn 4. Fortunately, contact was avoided, and the Hoosier was able to continue.

SEE: Final Practice Results

Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon, who has five wins at Texas, led practice with a fastest lap at 222.378 mph. Newgarden ended up directly behind Dixon in the running order, just .0615 of a second off the pace.

Takuma Sato, making his first appearance of the year as an oval specialist with Chip Ganassi Racing, put the No. 11 Niterra Honda in third. Scott McLaughlin and Colton Herta ended up fourth and fifth, respectively.

Will Power, Callum Ilott, Rosenqvist, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson made up the rest of the top 10.

The only driver to miss extensive time in the session was Helio Castroneves, who said his No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda suffered a broken bearing in the gearbox, putting the Meyer Shank Racing crew to work. Additionally, teammate Simon Pagenaud was docked the final 10 minutes of the session for being late to the weigh-in.