By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – A day full of action at Texas Motor Speedway concluded on Saturday afternoon with one final hour of practice for drivers and teams to get their cars dialed in for the XPEL 375.
When the checkered flag flew on the session, Josef Newgarden was on top of the leaderboard with a lap of 23.235 seconds (223.108 mph). After starting the day off 14th in first practice, Newgarden’s result in final practice marked a steady progression throughout the day for the Team Penske driver, who will roll off seventh when the green flag flies on Sunday.
“It’s going to be tough,” Newgarden said of his outlook for Sunday. “You know, the track has gotten older year after year and I feel like the tires are wearing out more so than in years past, which is good. It means you have to look after it with the race car and your setup. I think you’re going to be chasing the balance all over the place from the beginning to the end.
“When you have brand new tires, it’s really easy to stay close and stay packed. So, I think you’ll see that on our restarts, but once you get midway through the stint, you’ve really got to start managing the car.
“I was pretty happy. I thought the PPG car was good. It was fast right off the truck. I wish we had a little bit more in qualifying. I really thought we had a super quick car for pole, but missed it by a little bit. I think our race car is good, so we can make up for it tomorrow hopefully for Team Chevy.”
Five-time Texas winner Scott Dixon timed in second fastest, followed by polesitter Felix Rosenqvist in third.
Rookie Christian Lundgaard showed vast improvement from his team’s struggles in qualifying by ending the session fourth fastest, with Colton Herta rounding out the top-five.
The remainder of the top-10 in final practice went to Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, Helio Castroneves, Romain Grosjean, and Devlin DeFrancesco.
Practice was halted for one incident, which came when Jack Harvey crashed midway through the session.
Harvey ran high off Turn 2, making slight contact with the outside wall, which in turn sent him on a bee-line toward the inside wall, making heavy contact. Fortunately, Harvey was able to walk away from the incident, but it will be a long night ahead for his team to get the back-up ready for Sunday’s race.
Prior to final practice, there was a special practice session in which a number of teams ran laps in the high lane of the track in an effort to rubber in the PJ1 stained asphalt to get it in a raceable shape for Sunday.
The brainchild of Newgarden’s teammate Will Power, opinions on what effect the session will have on the race were mixed.
Now all that remains is to drop the green flag on Sunday’s XPEL 375, which is scheduled for 12:30 pm ET on NBC.