SALINAS, Calif — Both NTT INDYCAR Series practice sessions are in the books. So is qualifying. Only thing left is the morning warmup before the season finale Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Here’s how each driver is doing thus far.
Practice 1: 7th
Practice 2: 3rd
“Yeah, that was the focus. That’s all that was on my mind. It had nothing to do with the number of poles,” Power said of getting a pole here. “I need to get poles to give myself the best chance here.
“So we ticked that box and also another box with the 68. Very good start to the weekend. Super focused on tomorrow.
“At such a crucial point, it’s kind of — I couldn’t celebrate it very much because I’m so focused on tomorrow and I don’t want to give out too much energy because I’m going to need it tomorrow, but yeah, a day you’ll remember for sure. Something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
He’s still uneasy despite a pole.
“Yeah, in this series, a problem like that can win you the race tomorrow because you have more tires,” Power said. “But you cannot — it kind of sucks because Firestone or the series doesn’t give us enough tires. But yeah, that can totally be the winning strategy. What happened? Yeah, I screwed up in qualifying. That’s how you won the race? Yeah, that’s how this thing rolls sometimes.
“It’s a great spot because he didn’t use his tires up, and he’s not that far back. So yeah. Tough. Tough, man. Tough race. It’s far, far, far from won, and I’m really aware of that.”
Josef Newgarden (-21)
Practice 1: 1st
Practice 2: 4th
“Yeah, obviously it’s not over yet, but it was an unfortunate session for us,” said the 2-time series champion after spinning in qualifying. “Tough to make a mistake like that. I don’t know that we’ve — it’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those in qualifying, but it’s happened now, and obviously didn’t put us in a good position for tomorrow, but we’re going to make the most of it, like we always do, on the No. 2 car.
“It’s just a mistake. I turned in too early and I hit the curb. As soon as I hit the curb, I was all out of sorts. You can hit that second one in the bottom, but if you touch the first one it’s going to send the car in a mess.
“Kind of a simple error and a very sad error, so you know, we were done pretty early today.”
Practice 1: 17th
Practice 2: 6th
“Yeah, it’ll definitely be interesting. I think with my red run, kind of just the 14 (Kyle Kirkwood) never really went,” said Dixon. “I didn’t manage the gap that well, and when I started the lap, the fronts were just not ready to go, so that was definitely frustrating.
“I think had we had another lap or timed it a bit better, I think we would have been totally fine. It is what it is. We’re starting kind of in the middle there.”
However, it’s not like it’s over for him either. Strategy now comes into play and what better drivers to get the aid from a caution than one nicknamed the “Ice Man.”
“Strategy I think will be key tomorrow,” Dixon continued. “I think we’ve seen a lot of people go off track. Cautions could be coming maybe. Starts are always interesting here, and then also I think with tire deg, especially with the red tire, I think it’s definitely going to be a different race than what we saw last year.
“I think having started where we have a few times this year, you generally have more options. The leaders can kind of get locked in, and I know having been in that position before, you kind of — sometimes you’re a bit of a sitting duck.
“We’ll see how that plays. I think the tire thing is kind of a bit of an unknown, even though we’ve all run them and think we have a pretty good understanding. It may change a little bit.
“Yeah, I feel like the guys mid-pack and back kind of always have more options than the front rows.
“As Josef said, it’s never over until it’s over. We’ve seen that many a times this year, and we’ll do what we can, and if we can have a bit of luck go our way, it’ll be pretty helpful.”
Marcus Ericsson (-40)
Practice 1: 10th
Practice 2: 20th
“Yeah, it’s okay. I think we had a bit of a messy session obviously Q1 there with the red flag and one lap. We just got through.
“The car did feel pretty good, though, so was feeling quite confident I think Q2.
“I think on used reds we were right up there P3, and on new reds I think it was on a different strategy to most other people. We were going on the first lap pushing, and I was catching a few cars that was doing sort of a preparation lap.
“Just hard when you’re out of sync. You’re so focused and under the limit of the car, and then you catch traffic and you don’t know what they’re doing, if they’re giving you the track or if they’re staying in the racing line or not.
“Caught quite a few cars there towards the end of the lap and then got a bit close to another car into the corkscrew and had a spin, and then these tires are pretty sensitive; you have a spin and you lose a bit of edge of them. Yeah, P10 was okay, but I think there was definitely more speed in the car.
“Yeah, I think we had good speed in the car, but yeah, bit of a mess at the end of Q2 there, unfortunately.
“Yeah, we can still — P10 is still a decent spot to start from. I think the race is going to be super interesting tomorrow with the tires and different strategies in place, so I think it’s going to be, yeah, very interesting to both watch and drive tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Scott McLaughlin (-42)
Practice 1: 11th
Practice 2: 18th
“I think from where I was, especially this morning, my car just really wasn’t that good, and we made some big changes before qualifying, and it was really good. A similar story to Marcus. I feel like maybe if I had just done the lap, I could have been in the Fast Six. I feel like I was definitely fast enough.
“But yeah, I feel like we’ve done the right thing with certain tires and strategy-wise for that sort of stuff. Hopefully puts us in good stead for tomorrow. Eighth is not all too bad. I’m excited to start from there and see what we’ve got.”