Saturday, June 7, 2014

Morning Warm-Up: Texas 2014

Can Will Power Extend his Points Lead at Texas?
For the second consecutive Texas race Will Power starts from pole position as the Australian is in search for his second career Texas victory. The last pole-sitter to win at Texas was then-Penske driver Ryan Briscoe in 2010. Penske has won eight times at Texas and are the defending winners at Texas after Hélio Castroneves picked up his fourth career Texas victory in 2013. Josef Newgarden starts second, his best career start on an oval. Newgarden's eighth place finish last year at Texas was his first career top ten finish on an oval. Two of the three drivers to pick up their first career victory at Texas started second (Billy Boat in 1998 and Mark Dismore in 1999). A scary fact for Newgarden and the other five drivers in the field looking for their first career victory is of three drivers to have won their first career race at Texas Motor Speedway (Boat, Dismore and Jeff Ward), none of them would win another IndyCar race in their careers.

Tony Kanaan starts third. Kanaan has one career win at Texas, coming in 2004. He started in the third position that night. Juan Pablo Montoya starts fourth for his first career Texas starts in an IndyCar. Montoya had two top ten finishes at Texas in fourteen NASCAR Cup starts. Ed Carpenter starts fifth. Carpenter scored his first career top five finish at Texas last year with a fourth place finish. Simon Pagenaud starts sixth. His twenty-second place finish in Belle Isle race one last week was the Frenchman's second career finish outside the top twenty in fifty-eight IndyCar starts.

Former Texas winners Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson occupy row four. It is six years to the day of Scott Dixon's only Texas victory to date. He would go on to win the championship that year. Justin Wilson finished twenty-seventh that night after completing only 39 laps. Dixon was fastest in final practice. James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Muñoz make it an all-Andretti round five. Hinchcliffe average finish at Texas is 12th in four career Texas starts. This is Muñoz first career appearance at Texas Motor Speedway as Indy Lights does not run at Texas Motor Speedway.

Mikhail Aleshin starts eleventh. He has led a lap in three consecutive races. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts twelfth. His average start at Texas is 13.25 in what will be his eighth career Texas start. Hunter-Reay was the top Honda in final practice in eighth position. Ryan Briscoe starts eighth. Briscoe was third in final practice, rounding out a Ganassi 1-2-3 behind Dixon and Kanaan. Hélio Castroneves starts fourteenth. This is only the third time Castroneves has qualified outside the top ten at Texas in seventeen IndyCar starts (fourth if you count the abandoned CART round from 2001 where he qualified nineteenth before the decision was made not to race).

Charlie Kimball starts fifteenth. Kimball is guaranteed to improve his average finish at Texas. His average finish is 23.25 in four starts and only twenty-two cars are entered for tonight's race. Kimball is joined by Takuma Sato on row eight. A.J. Foyt Racing is looking for their first Texas victory since Billy Boat's victory in 1998. Marco Andretti starts seventeenth with Sébastien Bourdais joining him on row nine. Bourdais finished twentieth in his first career Texas start last year. Sebastián Saavedra follows his KV teammate in nineteenth. Jack Hawksworth rounds out the top twenty in his first career Texas appearance. Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas round out the field on row eleven. This is Rahal's worst career Texas start.

NBCSN's coverage of the Firestone 600 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET.