SAUTER WINS NCWTS PPG 400
10:41 p.m. —
Johnny Sauter continued his uncanny mastery of Texas Motor Speedway Friday night, holding off Stewart Friesen on a three-lap shootout to win the 22nd annual PPG 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Sauter, the series points leader, posted his fifth career win on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval and fourth in eight events this season. But he and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. had to gamble on fuel as the laps wound down and then keep pole-sitter Friesen at bay following a restart on Lap 165 of the scheduled 167.
Sauter finished 0.092 of a second ahead of Friesen, who was aiming for his first career truck series victory. Sauter took the lead for the first time on Lap 117 passing teammate Justin Haley between Turns 1 and 2.
“I complained about it all night long, just no balance, no grip,” said Sauter, driver of the No. 21 ISM Connect Chevrolet Silverado. “We made great adjustments and played the track position game. That’s where the speed is at, getting in clean air. This has been a dream start and proud to get this win. I’m speechless…don’t know what to say anymore. Five wins at Texas, it’s awesome.”
Sauter has won six of the last 11 series races, and posted top threes in 10 of the last 12 events. The Wisconsin native now has 21 career victories.
“I knew he’d be aggressive,” Sauter said of Friesen on the final restart. “He was hungry for his first win. I got a good launch and that’s all it took. Justin Haley helped push me along. Going into Turn 3 on last lap I ran out of fuel _ but then if fired up.”
ENFINGER WINS STAGE 2 OF PPG 400
9:55 p.m. —
Grant Enfinger held off Stewart Friesen during a one-lap shootout to win Stage 2 of the 22nd annual PPG 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
The restart was set up after the race’s fifth caution on Lap 75, brought out when Bo LeMastus crashed along the backstretch after contact with the truck driven by Norm Benning cut the right front tire of LeMastus’ No. 17 Crosley Brands Toyota Tundra.
During the caution, race leader Todd Gilliland pitted for four tires and fuel _ a move crew chief Marcus Richmond explained was about securing track position in the final stage of the 167-lap/250.5-miler.
Enfinger, driver of the No. 98 Protect the Harvest Ford F-150, surrendered the lead back to Gilliland when he pitted at the end of the stage. Enfinger was followed to the end of Stage 2 by Friesen, Justin Haley, Austin Hill, Gilliland, Noah Gragson, Tyler Young, Myatt Snider, point leader Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton.
Earlier, polesitter Friesen scored his second stage win after 40 laps around the 1.5-mile oval. Friesen, who won his second career pole earlier Friday afternoon in the No. 52 We Build America Chevrolet Silverado, finished 0.326 of a second ahead of Crafton and his No. 88 Matador Beef Jerky/Menards Ford. Crafton is a two-time series champion and two-time winner at TMS.
The top 10 earning Stage 1 points included Snider, Sauter, Cody Coughlin, Austin Wayne Self, Spencer Davis, Haley, Gilliland and LeMastus. Gilliland, who qualified second in the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra, began his night by receiving his high school diploma during ceremonies conducted by TMS President Eddie Gossage, aka the “Dean of Motorsports.”
Stage 1 produced three caution periods for a total of 13 laps.
GILLILAND LATEST DRIVER TO PARTAKE IN HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, NCWTS RACE IN SAME NIGHT
9:29 p.m. —
FORT WORTH, Texas (June 8, 2018) – For Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, the “The Double” always referred to running the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the same day.
For NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, “The Double” has become partaking in their high school graduation ceremony and a race at Texas Motor Speedway in the same evening.
Eighteen-year-old Todd Gilliland became the fourth NCWTS driver in the last five years to have his high school graduation commencement exercise during the pre-race ceremonies and then trade in the cap and gown for a firesuit and compete in the PPG 400 race.
Gilliland, home schooled in Sherrills Ford, N.C., came on stage in a cap and gown, along with his mother Michelle, father and fellow NASCAR driver David, and sister Taylor.
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, wearing professor’s regalia, presided over the ceremony that included Gilliland’s on-line diploma being presented by “The Great American Sweethearts,” Libby and Alyssa. Gilliland culminated the ceremony with the tradition of moving his tassel from the right to the left and then tossing his mortarboard into the air.
“It’s a very special event to be out here in front of all these people and honestly, just doing what I love – racing,” the teenager said. “It’s cool that we could bring it together and hopefully we have a great night tonight. I was wearing the cap and gown up on the stage, so a very special moment for me and my family because we missed out on a lot of other high school experiences.”
Gilliland follows Erik Jones (2014), Cole Custer (2016) and Noah Gragson (2017) in the high school graduation line at Texas Motor Speedway. The tradition has quickly become a favorite for the parents and family members in particular.
“It’s awesome,” his father David said. “All his life he’s loved race tracks, racing and race cars, so it’s super special to be here. We missed a lot along the way with my career, so to see him walk across that stage and get his picture taken on the frontstretch at Texas Motor Speedway is super special. He’s closing one chapter with high school and I think he’s got a bright future in NASCAR racing. He couldn’t race without school and he knew that all along and did a really good job with balancing all the racing we’ve done over the years with focusing on his education along the way, too.”
Gilliland, driving the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, nearly celebrated his high school graduation with the pole position in the PPG 400, which is exactly what Gragson did last year. Gilliland qualified second in his Texas Motor Speedway debut, his third top-10 start of the season. He finished ninth in Stage 1 of the PPG 400 and took the race lead early in Stage 2 of the 167-lap, 250.5-mile race.
STEWART FRIESEN WINS FIRST STAGE OF PPG 400
Pole-sitter Stewart Friesen scored his second stage win of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season Friday night after 40 laps of the 22nd annual PPG 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Friesen, who won his second career pole earlier Friday afternoon in the No. 52 We Build America Chevrolet Silverado, finished 0.326-seconds ahead of Matt Crafton and his No. 88 Matador Beef Jerky/Menards Ford F-150. Crafton is a two-time series champion and two-time winner on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval.
The top-10 earning points included Myatt Snider, point-leader Johnny Sauter, Cody Coughlin, Austin Wayne Self, Spencer Davis, Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland and Bo Le Mastus. Gilliland, who qualified second in the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra, began his night by receiving his high school diploma during ceremonies conducted by TMS President Eddie Gossage, aka the “Dean of Motorsports.”
Stage 1 produced three caution periods for a total of 13 laps.
FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN TONIGHT’S NCWTS PPG 400
By John Sturbin
7:03 p.m. —
Sauter Chasing More History — Point-leader Johnny Sauter has become the sixth different driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history to post three or more wins (Daytona, Dover and Charlotte) in the season’s first seven races. The driver of the No. 21 ISM Connect Chevrolet Silverado has joined Kyle Busch (four wins: 2014, 2011), Matt Crafton (three wins: 2015), Mike Skinner (three wins: 2007, 1996, 1995), Ron Hornaday Jr. (three wins: 1995) and Ted Musgrave (three wins: 2001). If the GMS Racing ace wins tonight, he will be the third driver in series history to post four or more wins in the first eight races of the season. Busch and Skinner are the only other drivers to do so.
Gragson Needs To Keep The Heat On Sauter — Here’s what you need to “Noah” about the driver of the No. 18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota Tundra: he’s 59 points behind leader Johnny Sauter and can’t afford to let the veteran Wisconsin driver disappear in the standings. To that end, Gragson has earned 10 playoff points in the first seven races of 2018, including the seven he earned by sweeping all three stages en route to victory at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in May. The 19-year-old has led at least one lap in six of seven races this season and ranks second to Sauter with 244 laps-led.
Crafton Counting On Experience — No NCWTS driver has more starts at Texas Motor Speedway than Matt Crafton. The two-time series champion will make his 35th start tonight in search of his third victory in Fort Worth. Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Matador Beef Jerky/Menards Ford F-150 fielded by ThorSport Racing, has led 429 laps around TMS dating to his Cowtown debut in 2001. Crafton is an intermediate (1.5-mile) ace, having scored nine wins, eight poles and led 1,210 laps in 147 such starts.
How Do You Top Graduation Day? — Third-generation NASCAR driver Todd Gilliland would “cap” a momentous debut at TMS if he can win tonight’s PPG 400. Prior to the race, Gilliland will walk across the stage during driver introductions and receive his high school diploma from TMS President Eddie Gossage, aka the “Dean of Motorsports.” Gilliland, 18, momentarily was on-pole during qualifying Friday afternoon before being pipped by 34-year-old Stewart Friesen. Gilliland will start second in the No. 4 Mobil 1Toyota Tundra fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports and might be thinking … who needs prom?
TMS Welcomes Long List Of First-Timers — Fans definitely will need a program for tonight’s race, as 10 of the 32 drivers in the field are making their TMS debuts. They are Todd Gilliland, Camden Murphy, Brett Moffitt, Bo LeMastus, Dalton Sargeant, Justin Fontaine, Spencer Davis, Chris Eggleston, Kyle Donahue and Bayley Currey. Of them, Moffitt is the only driver with a win on his resume this season. Driver of the No. 16 Northland Foundations, Inc., Toyota Tundra fielded by Hattori Racing Enterprises, Moffitt sits third in the point standings behind Noah Gragson in second and leader Johnny Sauter.
STEWART FRIESEN CLAIMS POLE FOR FRIDAY NIGHT’S PPG 400 DURING U.S. CONCRETE QUALIFYING DAY
6:09 p.m. — Canadian Stewart Friesen earned his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole Friday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, where he will lead a field of 32 competitors during U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day to the green flag for tonight’s 22nd annual PPG 400.
Friesen toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval at 185.103 mph in his No. 52 We Build America Chevrolet Silverado. The 34-year-old native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, is driving for Halmar Friesen Racing.
Friesen will be joined in the front row by teenager Todd Gilliland, a third-generation racer who qualified the No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports second at 184.951 mph. But before the start of the 167-lap/250.5-mile race, Gilliland will receive his high school diploma during graduation ceremonies conducted by TMS President Eddie Gossage.
Point-leader Johnny Sauter, the 2016 NCWTS champion, will start fifth after lapping at 184.074 mph in his No. 21 ISM Connect Chevy fielded by GMS Racing.
‘What They’re Saying’ From U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day For The DXC Technology 600
5:57 p.m. —
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think (starting from pole here) helps a lot. It’s very warm. I don’t think I saw a person not sweating outside. We’re dealing with the heat. I think this is a big boost for us particularly coming off of Detroit. It was a tough weekend for us on the No. 1 car side. I don’t think it was the best weekend as a whole for Team Penske. We fought all weekend. To come here and have speed in all the race cars is really nice. I think it comes down to a lot of things – the team, the personnel we have. We have some of the best people in the paddock. You can see that. When you have cars go 1-2-3, it shows the competitiveness of all the cars. That’s the thing that impresses me most about the team, is how competitive they make each car they have. They’re really, really good at that. It’s a big credit to Team Penske and Team Chevy as well, if you look at the speed we’ve had during the month of May, the 500. It helped us secure the pole today. That’s a big part of it. Now that we have good speed, we have to figure out how to make the car last on tires. That is definitely the big deal tomorrow night. If we can do that, we’re going to be just fine, find ourselves back in victory lane.”
MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s a pretty difficult track, to be honest, not that easy. Really just trying to go step by step. I think we have a great car here and I look forward to the race tomorrow. I know it’s going to be a long race and it’s been a tough one the past few years, so hopefully, we will have a good one.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “We don’t run in track conditions like this any other time of the weekend, so the only time you’re running with 130 plus degree temps is when you’ve peeled all the downforce off and you’re going for broke in qualifying. That’s the toughest part – the unknowns. I don’t think we did the best job in the Arrow Electronics car today, unfortunately. We’ll do what we can in the race tomorrow, and like it’s been said, you can win from anywhere here. With this new aero kit, passing seems to be a little bit trickier than it has in years past. We’ve driven up through up the field here before, and hopefully, we can do it again tomorrow.”
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Every day in INDYCAR is a new adventure, but we keep coming to each weekend with great cars. I think today is the perfect example. I’m definitely not comfortable on a superspeedway yet, but everyone on the Lucas Oil car are doing a good job. We were quick in practice, and now we’re starting fourth – can’t complain about that.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The PNC Bank car was great earlier today and wasn’t bad in the afternoon, we just missed a little bit on the balance. But I’m not worried too much, as it really doesn’t matter where you qualify here because you can win about from any starting position. The car just had a bit of understeer so we had to lift. Not a bit deal and we’ll be ready to race tomorrow night for sure.”
ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda): “The race this year will be a bit different with the change in the amount of downforce we have on the car. So that will be interesting. The conditions here today are a little difficult, but I’m happy with our NTT DATA car. We just missed the balance a little in qualifying, but we should be in the top half of the field and in a good place to go racing for the win here tomorrow night in Texas.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “A good run. I didn’t think we were going to have it for the pole anyway, so I think if we’re in the top six, it’s a good spot to start and a great way to start the weekend. I think we have a good car for the race. I think we’re improving as a team every weekend, so hopefully this will be a turnaround. Our best finish was last weekend, so we’ll try to do a lot better than seventh.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda): “We’re not as good as we should be on these superspeedways right now. It’s kind of been our weakness over the last handful of years. This team has been good everywhere else, but we struggle on this type of track. The out lap was super loose. I had a lot of understeer on the first lap and the second lap was better. It was just an inconsistent balance, which is the same as I had this morning. Takuma (Sato) is doing a good job, but I am just unhappy with the car. We didn’t have a great practice and it just carried over to qualifying. We’ll see what practice brings tonight and try to bounce back Saturday night.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “Overall, it was a pretty good day. The SealMaster Honda No. 18 was good this morning in practice and it was good in qualifying. It’s very hot, so the car wasn’t as stuck as it was in practice. We lost a lot of grip because the track was so much hotter, close to 140 (degrees), but it’s the same for everyone. The guys gave me a good car. I was pretty comfortable with the balance. I had a little understeer, but I knew what I was going to get before the qualifying run. A good run, so pretty happy.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The first half of practice earlier, I felt like we were really good. Then as people starting doing (qualifying simulations), we kind of fell behind. We took a little bit of a swing at it there in qualifying and just missed the balance. Ultimately, I think the speed is there. I wasn’t flat, I was lifting in (Turn) 1 and 2 for understeer. However, I thought the car was really good on long runs. I’ve struggled here in qualifying and gotten to the front before, that’s what we will do tomorrow.”
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It’s definitely a lot harder to drive here today in these conditions than it was in the tests. We had a little bit too much understeer in (Turns) 1 and 2 that made me have to get out of the throttle. We’re going to have our work cut out for us tomorrow night, but hopefully, we’ll make good progress in tonight’s final practice.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “We (Team Penske) seem to qualify (on the) front row pretty much every oval. We missed the pole on three ovals so far by a little bit. It was a fantastic effort from the whole No. 22 team. We had a bit of a tough practice this morning. We managed to make the right changes for this afternoon qualifying. I held my breath for those two laps – managed to keep the pedal to the floor the whole time. The handling was really good. Thanks to my engineer for sorting that out. Obviously, it’s super important for us to do well this weekend for DXC. It’s an incredible partner we have…they do all the data and analytics for the race team, basically get all the information from the cars, the other teammates for us as soon as possible to be successful on the racetrack. They’re obviously a leader in their industry, just like Team Penske. Having these two together is a dream team. We couldn’t be happier to have them onboard and be here as the title sponsor, as well.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I’m pretty confident and happy with that qualifying run from the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet. We had a couple of issues on our qualifying sims this morning in practice, just with traffic and things like that, but overall, I’m just really proud of the Carlin guys. We unloaded here at Texas with a very stable car, and I’ve got to say that with how intimidating this place can be for both drivers and teams alike, that’s pretty impressive. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow night – it’s going to be hot and slippery. I honestly think that whoever takes care of their tires the longest during the race will end up the best.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “We just missed the tools the first lap. Obviously, you don’t know what you’re getting until you get out there. This being my first time here, I was a little conservative on the first lap and that hurt us. You should be flat through (Turn) 1, I tried to keep it flat as long as I could, but the front end took off on me. I’m kind of kicking myself because the second lap is what the first lap should have also been.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I don’t think we had enough for the front row, but maybe a Row 2. We just had quite a bit of understeer that built pretty dramatically on the first lap. That’s the way it goes. I think it’s more important to have a car that’s strong. We were pretty happy with the NAPA car this morning and have another practice session tonight. It’s going to be a long night tomorrow night, and it will be about staying out of trouble.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We just have to keep the momentum going – last weekend was a huge weekend for us, but we’ve got to keep it rolling. The points are going to be so valuable, the competition is so close, the competition is so tight that you can’t really afford to give up much as the season rolls along. Hopefully, we can put it together here in tonight’s practice – tonight’s practice is going to be so important. We’re starting 10th, and we can absolutely do it from there with a strong car.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda): “It was a little sketchy in Turns 1 and 2 and I had to lift a little bit because the car was sliding over the bumps; it was a little bit too neutral. But in Turns 3 and 4, I was happy certainly after today’s practice session, I am happy with the speed I achieved. I’m happy that qualifying went extremely well with the No. 30 car under the circumstances. For the race, we are way over 400 pounds down on downforce from last year, so obviously, you can expect that the pack will be a little bit stretched out and it will be very difficult to follow as you observed in the Indy 500. With the banking here, typically Texas is a good two-wide race. Once the sun sets, I think you will be able to use the second lane and it will still be an exciting race.”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “We had a problem with the throttle body this morning, so we were only able to do about 10 laps of pushing. We’ve had no testing here as a new team and going into a qualifying session in this heat is just extremely difficult for any team, but especially a new team. We just did the job we needed to do with the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. At the end of the day, at a track like Texas Motor Speedway, you can qualify last and still come back and win the race.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “The car felt fantastic today. The guys have been full throttle for so long and I’m happy with the car they gave me, so I know we’ll be able to get it to the front during the race tomorrow. Texas is one of my favorite tracks because I’ve had some of my best results here, so we’ll see how everything pans out.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda): “I don’t think we had enough for pole, but fortunately, it’s 248 laps – a long night tomorrow night. This is a big home race for U.S. Concrete, and we’re proud to carry their colors and look forward to, hopefully, getting them into victory circle tomorrow.”
NEWGARDEN LEADS PENSKE SWEEP IN INDYCAR QUALIFYING AT TMS
Josef Newgarden led a 1-2-3 sweep for Team Penske during pole qualifications Friday afternoon for the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Newgarden toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in a combined two-lap total of 46.9964-seconds/220.613 mph in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, will start second after posting a two-lap average of 47.0607-seconds/220.311 mph in his No. 22 DXC Technology Chevy.
The last driver with a shot at Newgarden was teammate Will Power, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of last year’s race here. But Power’s combined run of 47.0857-seconds/220.194 mph slotted the Australian’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy into third.
“I think this is a big boost for us, especially coming off Detroit,” said Newgarden, referring to Honda’s domination of qualifying and both races of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park last weekend. “To come here and have speed again is really nice. Comes down to the team, the personnel we have, and you see that when we go 1-2-3. That impresses me the most. Team Chevy, when you look at the speed in Month of May and the (Indianapolis) 500, that’s a big part of it. Now that we have speed we need to figure out a way to make the (Firestone Firehawk) tires last.”
Saturday night’s 248-lap/372-mile event will be the first contested at TMS with sanctioning body INDYCAR’s new-for-2018 universal aero kit chassis built by Dallara. The chassis reportedly produces 100 fewer pounds of downforce, making the cars more difficult to handle and putting more emphasis on driver skill. The new chassis was designed, in part, to eliminate pack racing synonymous with TMS.
“This car is more sensitive to track temperature,” Newgarden said on a 94-degree afternoon that sent track temps around 135 degrees. “Looking after tires will be more of the equation this year. For a show, we’re trying to optimize what drivers want and what fans want. It’s a car that you can race and get close with. Guys will have to work to maintain the balance and maintain the tire life for the full stint. But I do think we’ll have a great race.”
Newgarden scored his fourth career pole, second this season, first at TMS and first on a superspeedway. Team Penske now has eight poles in Fort Worth, most of any organization. The pole also was the 259th in the history of the open-wheel juggernaut founded by Roger Penske.
“I held my breath for those two laps,” said Pagenaud, 10th in series points and without a top-five finish in the season’s first eight races. The Frenchman was seventh after Friday’s 90-minute opening practice.
“We made some changes on the car,” Pagenaud said, “because I wasn’t comfortable this morning and never went flat-out in Turn 1 before. This morning was the worst situation you’re going to see. The track was dusty, low-grip and the tires were sliding around. I thought this morning it was down to the driver, you had to lift in Turns 1 and 2. INDYCAR has decided not to have pack racing here, so we decided to go with this universal aero kit…and you have to adapt to it. You have to find ways to be the best. It’s definitely not easy…but you want to deserve your seat as a race car driver. It was tough but I welcome the challenge.”
Series rookie Robert Wickens led the Honda contingent in fourth at 47.2214-seconds/219.561 mph in the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. Rounding out the top five was Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion, at 47.2772-seconds/219.302 mph in the No. 18 Team SealMater Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing.
A one-hour practice at 6:15 p.m. (CDT) remains for teams to fine-tune their race day setups. “We’re going to get a preview of the start of the race,” Newgarden said, “and an idea of what it’s like to run in two-car packs or 10-car packs.”
A field of 22 cars will compete in Saturday’s edition of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Series Race.” Round No. 9 of the schedule will be televised on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7 p.m. (CT).
PAGENAUD SETS EARLY INDYCAR SERIES QUALIFYING PACE
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud moved to the top of the speed chart halfway through qualifications Friday afternoon for the DXC Technology 600.
Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, posted a two-lap average of 47.0607-seconds/220.311 mph in his No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet. The Frenchman’s lap ousted Tony Kanaan off the provisional pole. The popular Brazilian had toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in a combined 47.3085-seconds/219.157 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet fielded by native Texan and open-wheel icon A.J. Foyt Jr.
Kanaan knocked Charlie Kimball and the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet fielded by Trevor Carlin off pole. Kimball, then of Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified on-pole last June 9 with a two-lap average of 46.5861-seconds/222.556 mph. Kimball also set the one-lap track record of 23.2730-seconds/222.747 mph.
Kanaan and rookie Robert Wickens each recorded a hot lap of 220.014 mph during Friday morning’s 90-minute practice session. Wickens, a native of Toronto, Canada, logged 58 laps in his first stint around TMS as driver of the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner, ran 59 laps.
A field of 22 cars is qualifying for Saturday’s edition of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Series Race.” Round No. 9 of the schedule is set for 248 laps/372 miles and will be televised on NBC Sports Network beginning at 8 p.m. (EDT).
GRAHAM RAHAL LANDS MULTI-YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION
2:44 p.m. — Graham Rahal has found a home in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and he’s not about to change zip codes.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced a five-year contract extension with Rahal during a news conference Friday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600.
“Hell, I didn’t even read the contract last week,” said Rahal, who has driven for the team fronted by father Bobby full-time since 2013. Graham has earned six wins, 27 podiums and 48 top-fives during his open-wheel career. Over the past three seasons, he has finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the point standings. In two of those seasons, Graham was the highest-ranked Honda-powered driver.
“It’s been a lot of fun for me to be here,” said Graham, a 29-year-old native of New Albany, Ohio. “We’ve come a long way over the last handful of years. As a driver, you’re always…when you get in a contract year you always are testing the waters, that’s natural. But RLL has done a tremendous job and proven ourselves to be one of the premier teams in the series.
“A lot of this is thanks to our sponsors. Most of them are long-term contracts, so I was kind of the outlier in the deal. I’d like to think the next five years, and maybe after that, are the prime of my career. I’m excited to continue on here and build. The next five years should be awesome.”
Based in Brownsburg, Ind., RLL is co-owned by the elder Rahal — the 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion — former CBS “Late Show” host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan.
Bobby noted there are plusses and minuses to having a son drive as a team employee. “The plusses are you’ve got a guy who can stand on the gas and he’s proven that again and again,” said the elder Rahal, 65, citing Graham’s victory in the 2016 night race on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval. “I give Graham all the credit in the world.
“For our sponsors, it’s a plus having he and I together. It’s a lot of responsibility for me as a team-owner when your son, your blood, is in that car and you want him to achieve his goals. To me, it’s worth the pressure of that. I look forward to the next five years.
“You can say I’m biased, but I admire and respect Graham’s work ethic on and off the track for our team and sponsors.”
Graham, driver of the No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda this weekend, is seventh in the 2018 point standings heading into Saturday night’s 248-lap/372-mile event (8 p.m., CDT, NBC Sports Network). He has scored three top-five and seven top-10 finishes in the season’s first eight events.
The 2018 season is the 12th in domestic open wheel racing’s premier series for Graham, who became the youngest winner in major auto racing history when he drove to victory in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.) at the age of 19. Since 2015, he has won five Verizon IndyCar Series races.
WICKENS, KANAAN TOP OPENING INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE
1:39 p.m. — Rookie Robert Wickens and veteran Tony Kanaan emerged in a tie atop the speed chart following Friday’s opening Verizon IndyCar Series practice for the DXC Technology 600.
Wickens and Kanaan each recorded a hot lap of 220.014 mph around Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval during the 90-minute session. Wickens, a native of Toronto, Canada, logged 58 laps in his first stint around TMS as driver of the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.
Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner, ran 59 laps in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet fielded by native Texan and open-wheel legend A.J. Foyt Jr.
Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion, was third-fast at 219.619 mph in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing. Bourdais did not compete at TMS last June while recovering from injuries suffered in a crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 champion from Andretti Autosport, was fourth overall at 219.355 mph in the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda. Rossi was followed by Gabby Chaves at 219.064 mph in the No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet.
Scott Dixon, a four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was the last driver over 219 mph at 219.005 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon won the first half of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix last Saturday on The Raceway at Belle Isle Park.
The session began with an INDYCAR-mandated 30-minute session to scuff-in tires. Teams were instructed to scuff-in four sets of Firestone Firehawk rubber before being cleared to run all-out for the final hour. Firestone Racing has brought more than 1,300 race tires to Fort Worth for the 22 entered teams. Each entry will receive 13 sets of Firehawk tires.
U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day for the open-wheel series is set for 3 p.m. (CT). Saturday’s edition of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Series Race” — set for 248 laps/372 miles — will be televised on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7 p.m. (CT).
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: COWBOYS GREAT “TOO TALL” MEETS INDYCAR NAMESAKE “TOO FAST”
Having grown up in Dubai, Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ed Jones wasn’t familiar with American football.
It wasn’t until he moved to Indianapolis to compete in the series and his fellow competitors were jokingly calling him “Too Tall” that he began familiarizing himself with the National Football League … and his namesake that starred for the Dallas Cowboys.
On Thursday at The Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway, “Too Fast” Jones of Chip Ganassi Racing met Super Bowl champion and three-time All-Pro defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones for a media luncheon and learn a little bit more about the other Ed Jones. Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, Jones’ teammate, also took part in the luncheon as well.
Texas Motor Speedway had the Joneses participate in an entertaining, rapid-fire word association game featuring terms in football, racing and ones that crossed over to both.
“Too Tall” will return to Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday evening as a guest of “Too Fast,” NTT Data and Chip Ganassi Racing for the DXC Technology 600. The Joneses will partake in a press conference in the infield media center deadline room at 6:15 p.m. CT and then pre-race introductions beginning at 7:01 p.m.
“Too Tall” will watch “Too Fast” take the green flag in his No. 10 NTT Data Honda for the DXC Technology 600 at 7:45 p.m. from atop the team’s pit box.
Tickets for the DXC Technology 600, as well as Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series PPG 400 and U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day, are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com or by calling the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE GOES GREEN
12:18 p.m. — Friday’s lone Verizon IndyCar Series practice scheduled before qualifying for Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway began with an INDYCAR-mandated 30-minute session to scuff-in tires.
Teams were instructed to scuff-in four sets of Firestone Firehawk rubber around the 1.5-mile oval before being cleared to run all-out for the final hour. Firestone Racing has brought more than 1,300 race tires to Fort Worth for the 22 entered teams. Each entry will receive 13 sets of Firehawk racing tires.
“The Firestone Race Engineering team will bring new, softer left and right side compounds to the 2018 DXC Technology 600,” said Cara Adams, chief engineer, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. “Based on learnings from 2017, along with the results from our tire test in March, the new, softer tires are more heat-resistant and will provide increased grip and greater drop-off over a stint.”
US Concrete Qualifying Day for the open-wheel series is set for 3 p.m. (CT).
8:00 a.m. — Friday’s Schedule
|8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.||VICS Credentials Open|
|8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.||USAC Racing|
|8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.||Texas Motor Speedway Credential Office Open|
|8:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.||VICS Garage Open|
|11 a.m.||Gates at Lil’ Texas Motor Speedway Open|
|11:30 a.m.||Gate 4 Open|
|11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.||VICS 1st Practice|
|12 p.m.||NCWTS Garage Open|
|12 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.||NASCAR Credentials Open|
|12–8 p.m.||Outdoor Powersports Offroad Ruckus Open (South Infield)|
|1:30 p.m.||Legends Racing at Lil Texas Motor Speedway|
|2:30 p.m.||Gates 3, 5, Victory Lane Club and Luxury Suites Open|
|Gates 2 & 6 Open for Victory Lane Club and Luxury Suites only|
|3–4 p.m.||U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day for VICS|
|3:30–4:15 p.m.||NCWTS Autograph Session (Location TBA)|
|4:45 p.m.||U.S. Concrete Qualifying Day for NCWTS|
|5–5:45 p.m.||VICS Autograph Session at IndyCar Fan Village Between Gates 3-4|
|6:15–7:15 p.m.||VICS Final Practice|
|8 p.m.||NASCAR Camping World Truck Series PPG 400 (167 Laps, 250.5 Miles)|
|25 min post Checkered Flag||Barr Tunnel at Section 121 Closes|
|30 min post Checkered Flag||SST Practice|
|Post SST Practice||Barr Tunnel Opens|
8:00 a.m. — Friday’s Schedule