FORT WORTH, TX — Rain fell early this morning at the Texas Motor Speedway and by virtue of that and some overcast conditions all day, it took track officials longer than normal to get the full 1.5-miles of racing surface completely dry. As a result, practice was delayed by almost two hours as instead of starting at 12:45 p.m. ET, it was moved until 2:30 p.m. ET. Due to that, qualifying for tonight’s Genesys 300 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, INDYCAR Radio Network) was canceled as the 24 cars will lineup at the start on entrant points.
That means Alex Palou and Will Power will lead the field to green on the front row with last year’s winner (Scott Dixon) and last weeks winner (Colton Herta) sharing Row 2. On the flipside, you’ll have James Hinchcliffe (20th), Ryan Hunter-Reay (21st), Tony Kanaan (23rd) and Conor Daly (24th) taking four of the bottom five starting spots.
Where this lineup is big is, nine of the last 10 Texas winners have come from a starting spot off the front row. But, 34 of the last 35 races in the series in general have seen the eventual winner come from a top 10 starting spot. 30 of the last 39 have started in the top six with 10 of the last 11 from the top three.
That means in terms of the trends that third place starter Dixon would be the favorite. He, Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Jack Harvey, Sebastien Bourdais, Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson and Josef Newgarden would be the group to win.
In practice, last row starter in Kanaan topped the speed charts with a lap of 220.173 mph in his No. 48 Honda. Pato O’Ward turned in a late flyer of 219.934 mph in his No. 5 Chevrolet to come home P2.
Takuma Sato (219.868 mph), Scott Dixon (219.723 mph) and Simon Pagenaud (219.708 mph) rounded out the top five.
What’s impressive is, Ganassi didn’t test at Texas this offseason like most of the other teams and they ended up 1-3-6-11.
The other factor to this equation tonight is the weather conditions and the PJ1 traction compound. In the 90 minutes of practice, no one really took to the stained areas of the corners. That’s the area of concern that was so treacherous last year that if you got your tires on it, you were crashing.
With so few time between practice and the race tonight, no one could take the risk of getting in it and possibly crashing. We saw Takuma Sato do that last year in qualifying and he wouldn’t even get to race due to the team not getting the car repaired in enough time.
So, how much will that play a factor in the 318 mile race tonight?
Also, with cooler conditions and more downforce on these cars this year in comparison to last, that could bunch up the field even closer. Firestone brought a new softer tire which would degrade faster, but again with cooler temps, it could last longer than initially expected too.
The key is the PJ1 compound areas. If you can race on it, we could see a thrilling race. If you can’t, well it could be boring.
Also, the start time was moved up 35 minutes from 7:45 p.m. ET as originally scheduled to 7:10 p.m. ET.