FORT WORTH, TX — The NTT INDYCAR Series had two very important practice sessions on a sun filled Saturday afternoon at the Texas Motor Speedway. Both were an hour in length with the first one this morning in preparation for qualifying as well as Sunday’s XPEL 375 (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). The final session was a true race practice.
Prior to each were vastly of importance too. We had a 10 minute pit limiter session for the drivers to work on getting on and off pit road with this track featuring a different way to come on and off pit road.
With Texas having a long pit road to accommodate NASCAR, there’s two varying speeds coming on and coming off pit road. That’s an adjustment to make.
Then, prior to final practice, 7 drivers had a special session to run the second lane only. That’s to help aid in making the racing around the 1.5-mile track better.
Luckily, the track looked racier early but how much was the cooler conditions playing a role in that. Ambient temps were in the mid to upper 50’s for the first one-hour session where with that, more downforce and fresh tires would certainly help aid in more grip in that second lane.
Does that translate well over to Sunday? That’s where the second groove session and final practice will have a better preview.
For that first session, Simon Pagenaud led the way at 223.087 mph in his No. 60 Honda. Pagenaud, has three podiums in his last six Texas starts including seven straight top 10’s. This is his first appearance at Texas with Meyer Shank Racing though but the team however won 1 of the 3 superspeedway races last year with an Indy 500 triumph.
Felix Rosenqvist (222.878 mph) was second in his No. 7 Chevrolet. Arrow McLaren SP was P2 in practice last year from Pato O’Ward and he’d go on to win the second race after that as well. O’Ward (222.204 mph) was sixth in this session in his No. 5 Chevrolet.
Colton Herta (222.786 mph) was third in his No. 26 Honda while the winner of the season opener in St. Pete, Scott McLaughlin (222.234 mph) was fourth in his No. 3 Chevrolet. 4-time Texas winner, Scott Dixon, rounded out the top five in his No. 9 Honda with a lap of 222.215 mph.
The Penske cars may have only been 5-13-19 on the overall speed chart but they were so comfortable and confident, they packed up shop early in the incident free session.
Last year, the speeds were 3 mph slower but part of that is due to qualifying being canceled due to rain last season and with knowing that, they just ran race setups in practice.
The second session was extended 10 minutes due to Jack Harvey’s practice crash on the backstretch. His No. 45 Honda got high exiting Turn 2 and appeared to scrape the outside wall before shooting him down to the inside wall to where he made hard left side contact. It was the second straight race weekend that he crashed hard in practice. He also did so in St. Pete too.
The rest of the session was clean with Josef Newgarden (223.108 mph) leading the way. Four-time Texas winner, Scott Dixon, was second at 222.726 mph. Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist (222.662 mph) was third while rookie Christian Lundgaard (221.794 mph) was fourth.
RLL made up three of the bottom four spots in qualifying but in race trim practice, Graham Rahal was 7th to give them 2 cars in the top 7.
Colton Herta (221.751 mph) rounded out the top five.