Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Dixon Sets Early Tempo In Rain Shortened Practice at Texas

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas — Over 41 minutes of green flag action was all the NTT IndyCar Series drivers had to show for after a torrential downpour cancelled Thursday’s practice session for the upcoming DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Fresh off a turnaround victory at the second race in Detroit, defending champion and race winner Scott Dixon continues to show his Texas dominance with a blistering time of 23.6380 seconds (219.308 mph), just 0.0049 seconds quicker than Takuma Sato, who was the only driver who hit the 219-mph barrier.

The three-time winner is looking to equal Helio Castroneves for the most wins at the 1.5-mile circuit. After one session, Dixon said his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda felt okay, but struggled with the balance of the car due to the added temperature when comparing it to March’s testing.

“We didn’t get to run as much as we would’ve liked,” said Dixon. “Hope they can add some additional time, but all-in-all, the PNC Bank car felt decent right out of the gate.”

INDYCAR announced that at 2:30pm EST, there will be a 30-minute session for tire scuffing and pit stop practice. Second practice will still be 60 minutes, beginning at 3:00pm EST and will be aired live on NBC Sports Gold.

Over the last three races, Dixon has had a topsy turvy time period with two poor finishes at the Indianapolis 500 and a crash in the first Detroit race before turning it around last Sunday with his 45th career Indy car victory. His triumph puts him fourth in points, 52 markers behind points leader Josef Newgarden.

Dixon said the pressure he and his entire Chip Ganassi Racing crew has had the past three races can be rough but remained focused. A situation they’re accustomed to in this time period that also includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which Dixon will compete in later this month.

“I think that’s tough, just the hours that everybody has to work,” said Dixon. “For us, with the damage we had in race one of Detroit, adds to the issues there, which I felt extremely bad for. I think the win definitely turned that around in that scenario.

“I don’t know, I guess all of us are kind of used to it. Some of us go straight from here to Le Mans, then straight to Road America. I think as a driver you kind of like the stretch because it is so busy. For the crews, it’s hard work.”

Behind Dixon in points is Sato, who has a personal best finish of fifth at Texas, said it’s too early to say how the tires and downforce will play out for the race, but with more downforce than last year, he remained confident of the tire Firestone brought this weekend.

“Even one set of tires. Did not even get through, I don’t know, half of the stint I wouldn’t think,” said Sato. “I think Firestone did a great job to bring the tire that’s really good feeling, solid feeling, more downforce than last year. But not only for that, I think Firestone doing a great job. I was obviously looking forward to a little bit more traffic runs, go through the stint, how the balance shift will be. But obviously the rain, we cannot do anything at the moment.”

In response of the tire conditions, Dixon’s found it hard to judge how the falloff will play a role in Saturdays’ race, as relatively new surfaces takes its toll on the Firestone tires.

Although Dixon didn’t face tire problems last year, even feeling the same after Thursday’s session, he’s aware of the concern but at the same time, the competitors should be able to adapt.

“We had zero issues with blistering last year, yet there seemed to be a few teams that had some major issues and were falling off pretty hard,” Dixon explained. “I feel like in that scenario, you should be able to adapt to it. You shouldn’t have to change it for the situation of maybe a few cars or few drivers.

“But Firestone are always trying to make the tire better. I think for us this year, the problem is, once you have a new surface and a new track, the falloff comes pretty quickly in the first two, three, four years. That’s what we’ve seen.

“The grip is a lot lower than what we saw last year. IndyCar reacted with adding downforce on that. I think that’s the right direction.”

Sato’s teammate Graham Rahal was third fastest at 218.311 mph, followed by a pair of Chevrolets rounding out the top-five with Carlin’s Charlie Kimball leading the Bowtie Brigade in fourth. Two-time Texas winner Will Power, who ran the most laps in the session with 48, ended up fifth quickest (217.196 mph).

The 22-car field will fight for the pole starting at 6:45pm EST, airing live on NBCSN. Then on Saturday, live NBCSN coverage of the 248-lap race will begin at 8:00pm EST, with the green flag dropping at 8:45pm EST. Dixon is the defending race winner.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.