By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas — Friday’s qualifying proved to show that track conditions was everything at Texas Motor Speedway, and it proved to be beneficial for Sebastien Bourdais.
After floundering in the bottom top half of the field in both practice sessions, Bourdais turned it around with a solid showing. His No. 18 SealMaster Honda was one of the four fastest Hondas on the grid after setting a two-lap average of 219.746 mph. While his superspeedway pole drought that dates back to Las Vegas in 2005 continues, Bourdais was pretty content after predicting he had a 219 mph average speed in him.
“Not bad. It was a fairly solid run. It was a little faster than I thought we’d be,” Bourdais on his qualifying run. “I predicted (219.1 mph) and we did (219.7 mph). Strong first lap. Big drop-off, which was a pretty big gamble on the engine side. We knew we’d lose quite a bit on lap two, but, yeah, the guys did a really nice job.”
The session began at 5:45 pm EST with track conditions being 117 degrees and ambient temperature hitting 89 degrees. Several drivers struggled adapting to the constant conditions from direct sunlight to cloud cover, even two stoppages. One for wall contact by Tony Kanaan at the entry of Turn 2 and another due to light sprinkles.
Bourdais was the 12th guy to make a qualifying attempt under cloudy conditions, which proved to pay a huge dividends for the Frenchmen. He set the fastest two-lap average up to that point until both Scott Dixon and pole sitter Takuma Sato’s average hit the 220-mph barrier.
Prior of being out qualified by the top-two, Bourdais didn’t felt a shot of his 35th Indy car pole was going to happen as he felt Team Penske and Dixon were more capable of qualifying faster.
“It’s not going to happen,” Bourdais stated. “There’s still three Penskes and Scott and a lot of strong cars ahead, so if we can get up there in the top-five I’d be pretty happy.”
When qualifying wrapped up, he was able to beat the Penske trio and got his top-five qualifying starting position. Now the main focus for Bourdais and the rest of the 21-car field is how much tire degradation will factor into the race.
With only two top-ten finishes at Texas, Bourdais stated he it’s not the biggest concern, but how much blistering will occur due to the lack of mechanical grip he has to deal with.
“The tire (degradation) is not particularly high. There’s still some blistering going on, so we’ll get the full picture tomorrow when we get in dirty air and everything. I feel like we’ve lost overall mechanical grip and that makes things pretty difficult in traffic. We’ll see how things go.”
Green flag for the DXC Technology 600 will be waved at 8:45 pm EST. The race is 248 laps.