The Firestone 550 marks the first time that I have covered an IndyCar event from this side of the media fence. I’ve got to start off by thanking the IndyCar and Texas Motor Speedway public relations staff for making the transition for me a seamless one. Trademark Texas hospitality has been on display from everyone so far.
The only thing that has been uncooperative so far is the predictably hot Texas weather, which has seen track temps soar over the 120 degree mark by noon, providing a very hot and slick racetrack when the drivers got under way at 12:30 for the first practice session.
Marco Andretti showcased Andretti Autosport’s firm grasp on the handling characteristics of the DW12 on just his third lap around the 1.5-mile circuit. Tony Kanaan was fast early as well, turning a 217.577 mph lap on just his eighth circuit.
Penske’s Will Power used the entire session dialing in his Verizon machine before putting down a 216.938 mph lap on his 54th of 55 laps in practice.
Wholesale changes were made by almost all of the crews in the garage area prior to qualifying, which got started at 3:30 PM Texas time.
Qualifying was close with the second through thirteenth place cars within basically one mph, but there was one driver who refused to play along: Will Power blitzed the field with a 219.182 mph lap, almost two mph faster than second place Marco Andretti.
Given his recent strong of bad luck, Power was pensive when asked about the advantage of qualifying P1 for Saturday night.
“We just got to have a good race tomorrow, have nothing go wrong, and then just see what that gets us.”
Marco was a little more upbeat and says that we are looking at a tire management race Saturday night.
“Firestone did a great job with the tires this year,” Andretti said.
“This year we are able to recover with a lift, which will help the drivers. I think the guy that takes care of the tires will be the winner, and that’s the way it should be.”
Night practice saw more changes from the teams, and Tony Kanaan rebounded from a dismal 15th starting position to top the session. TK put in a 218.551 mph lap to best the 217.575 mph lap posted by James Hinchcliffe.
Eight different teams were represented in the top 10 in final practice.
Of note is the fact that Simona De Silvestro, Tristan Vautier, and Simon Pagenaud will be assessed 10 grid spot penaties for unapproved engine changes.
The Firestone 550 will start at 7:30 PM central time on Saturday night and will be telecast on ABC. I will be live tweeting from the media center during the race. Don’t forget to stay tuned to More Front Wing for more event coverage.