By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
FORT WORTH, Texas – James Hinchcliffe isn’t sold on a second groove coming in for Saturday night’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Last year, the affable Canadian led six times for 188 laps en route to finishing runner-up to Graham Rahal by a slim 0.008 of a second.
Although there would typically be some optimism in returning after such stalwart performance, a reconfiguration and repave to the 1.5-mile oval, which sees Turns 1 and 2 lowered from 24 to 20 degrees and widened from 60 to 80 feet, has left the five-time IndyCar race winner with none.
“Zero,” said Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.
“Nothing from the old Texas Motor Speedway translates to the new one. The name of the game in the past has been tire degradation and tire conservation, and that’s just not even in the conversation this year. The new surface is just so much smoother. The tires aren’t wearing at all, and so everything that made our car quick last year, it made it quick over a stint. We weren’t the necessarily the quickest guy over a lap. We were the best at hanging on to our tires. And that’s what won races here over the last four or five years. That’s not what is going to win tomorrow.
“It’s going to be pace. Playing cautions right. Playing pit strategy right. Track position is going to be very important tomorrow.”
Between final practice and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night, Hinchcliffe isn’t putting a lot of faith that a second lane will open up in the first two corners.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I’m skeptical,” said Hinchcliffe, who qualified 16th for Saturday night’s event.
“It’s really bad out there right now. It’s not a little bit bad. When you come to a race track on a Friday that’s pretty green, we see that sometimes, the second lane it takes a little while to come in. But by the race, usually after the first stint of the race, it’s there. Because this lane has never been in, I don’t know if we’re going to get it in one night.
“It is a brand new lane up there.”