By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Tex. — A busy Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway ended with six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon topping the board in final practice for Sunday’s running of the PPG 375.
The Chip Ganassi Racing ace, who has won five times previously at the 1.5-mile track, put down his fast lap of 223.378 mph with less than 10 minutes left in the session to give him a boost of momentum heading into Sunday.
Josef Newgarden, the defending winner at Texas, led the way for the majority of practice before Dixon bumped him from the top spot down to second on the timing sheet. Takuma Sato, who is running only the ovals for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2023, was third quick, followed by Scott McLaughlin and Colton Herta rounding out the top-five.
Sixth-place in final practice went to defending series champion Will Power to give Team Penske three cars in the top-six.
The remainder of the top-10 featured Callum Illott, pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist, Alex Palou, and Marcus Ericsson.
Helio Castroneves was the only car not to participate in final practice as a mechanical issue was discovered with his No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda that precluded him from getting on track.
“Unfortunately, in one of those practices for the outside lane, we did three laps and had a big moment, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was we broke the bearing of the gear box, so we wonder now if that’s something to do with the speed in qualifying.
“It’s a shame because obviously we’re losing a lot of track time. We already don’t have it, but nothing we can do. This is just a mechanical issue. Nothing that anybody did wrong.”
Prior to the full hour of on-track time for the teams to get their cars dialed in, a half-hour of practice was held to work on the PJ1 stained high lane to get it rubbered in and useable for Sunday’s race.
Whether the high lane pays dividends on Sunday remains to be seen with drivers mixed on its results coming out of the session.
The high lane practice was largely uneventful, with the exception of Conor Daly going for a ride off of Turn 4 during the second half of the session.
Daly’s No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet broke loose from the upper lane, sending him spinning down the frontstretch and through the infield grass. Luckily, Daly did not hit anything during his off-track excursion and the damage to the car was minimal enough that he took part in final practice a short time later, where he was 20th fastest.
“When we hit the bump exiting four, honestly, I hadn’t had a moment before, but it snapped really aggressively,” Daly explained. “Not ideal. Not great, but I do know my way around correcting a spin it seems.
“I drove NASCAR last weekend and that seemed to help a little bit. I drove in the dirt a lot in the USAC Midgets, so I seem to be able to save something. But yeah, not ideal. Not what we wanted to have happen.”
All that remains now is to drop the green flag and race, with the 250-lap event scheduled for Noon ET on NBC.
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