FORT WORTH, Texas – Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and three-time Texas Motor Speedway winner Scott Dixon was the fastest driver in Saturday’s practice for the Genesys 300.
At Texas Motor Speedway, Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Honda saved the fast speed for the end of the session. His top speed was a 215.995 mph lap, which came on the 59th lap of 60 laps Dixon turned in practice.
Andretti Harding Steinbrenner’s Colton Herta was second at 214.491 mph in another Honda. Arrow McLaren SP rookie Pato O’Ward was third in a Chevrolet at 214.326 mph, followed by three more Honda drivers.
They were, in order, Zach Veach (214.298 mph), Marco Andretti (214.264 mph) and Takuma Sato (213.829 mph).
Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was seventh in his Chevrolet at 213.308 mph, just ahead of 2019 Indianapolis 500 winning driver Simon Pagenaud’s Chevy at 213.221 mph.
This was the only practice session of the day as IndyCar starts the COVID-19-delayed season with a one-day trip to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. Qualifications are set for 5 p.m. Eastern Time. The cars will be impounded following qualifying, with the race telecast on NBC beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The green flag will wave shortly thereafter.
It was 90 degrees when practice began with a rookie-only session at 1 p.m. It was the first time Indy cars were on the track for competition in 258 days. IndyCar has set a 35-lap limit on each set of tires because Firestone’s production facility was shut down during the pandemic. Any driver that exceeds 35 laps on a single set of tires will be penalized, which should make for some interesting strategy at the end of Saturday night’s race.
Dutch rookie driver Rinus VeeKay crashed 16 minutes into the rookie practice session when his Chevrolet went low, over the white line in turn three. The car then shot up the track, spun backwards and hit the turn three wall.
“Sorry guys, I went too low,” VeeKay radioed when his crew asked if he was all right.
VeeKay’s car is currently being repaired and he hopes to be back on track in time for qualifications.
Later in the practice, his owner/driver teammate Ed Carpenter spun and slid in turn four in the No. 20 Chevrolet but kept the car off the wall.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in turn two when his car brushed the wall at the exit of the turn and continued down the track before it turned into the wall midway down the backstretch. There was minor damage to Hunter-Reay’s Honda and it is currently being repaired.
This is the first race for IndyCar’s aeroscreen and temperatures inside the cockpit were reported at 130 degrees.
The event in Fort Worth, Texas, is being held without spectators and each team is limited to 20 crew members.
“It’s great to be back here,” Newgarden said. “This is odd. Everything around here has been odd because of the Pandemic. We’ve had an amazing effort around the United States. It’s nice to be back at our job. This is what we do. It’s going to be a great race. It’s going to weird because we haven’t been to the track for a very long time. Just to find the pit limiter was weird.
“It’s going to be quick. It’s going to go fast. Before we know it, it will be tomorrow, and we will wonder what happened yesterday.
“The car didn’t feel like it fit. I’ve been in iRacing for so long. I’m excited to be here and hopefully we can finish in victory lane.”
Tony Kanaan, who is beginning his final season in IndyCar, radioed to his crew in pit lane to show his appreciation for returning to the track.
“I want to thank each one of you for the effort,” Kanaan said.
Scott Harner, A.J. Foyt Racing’s vice president of operations, radioed back, “Feelings mutual, TK.”