Saturday, June 9, 2018

Morning Warm-Up: Texas 2018

Josef Newgarden looks to retake championship lead from pole position at Texas
Josef Newgarden took pole position for the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway with a two-lap average of 220.613 MPH. It is Newgarden's second pole position of the season and his second career pole position on an oval. Newgarden won earlier this season from pole position at Barber and his other victory this season came at Phoenix after he started seventh. Three of Team Penske's nine Texas victories have come from pole position. Only one American has won from pole position at Texas. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the October 2001 race from pole position while driving for Panther Racing. Newgarden has finished in the top five in every race he has started on pole position. Car #1 has never won at Texas Motor Speedway. Simon Pagenaud qualified next to his teammate on row one but the Frenchman was over three-tenths of a mile per hour slower than Newgarden. This is Pagenaud second front row start of the season. He started second at Phoenix but finished 10th. Pagenaud has never won from second on the grid in his IndyCar career. His most recent victory was last year's season finale at Sonoma, which he won ahead of Newgarden with each driver leading 41 laps.

Will Power swept the top three positions on the grid for Team Penske. With a two-lap average of 220.194 MPH, the three Penske cars were the only three cars to average over 220 MPH in qualifying. Power won from third position at Texas in the second race of the 2011 doubleheader. Power also won from third two weeks ago in the Indianapolis 500. Robert Wickens will start fourth in his Texas debut. He was the fastest Honda in qualifying. Only once has a Texas winner started fourth and that was Hélio Castroneves in 2009. Sébastien Bourdais rounded out the top five in qualifying. This is Bourdais' best starting position at Texas by ten positions. This is Bourdais' fifth top five start of the season, the most he has had in season since 2007. Bourdais had five top five starts over the previous three seasons combined. Tony Kanaan joins Bourdais on row six. This is Kanaan's best starting position of the season and best starting position since he started fourth at Pocono last year.

Second and third in the championship will start on row four with Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi next to one another. This is the fifth time Dixon has started seventh at Texas. He won from seventh at Texas in 2015. Dixon's next podium finish will be the 100th of his career, tying him with Michael Andretti for third all-time. Rossi has started in the top ten in all three of his Texas starts. He is still looking for his first top ten finish at this track. Takuma Sato will start ninth. This is Sato's third consecutive top ten start at Texas. This is the first time Sato has started ninth since Pocono 2015. In the five previous times he has started ninth he has finished fourth, sixth, ninth and 18th twice. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts tenth for the second consecutive race and he won from tenth on the grid last week at Belle Isle. The last driver to win consecutive races from the same starting position was Simon Pagenaud in 2016 when he won from pole position at Barber and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The last driver to win consecutive races from the same starting position that wasn't pole position was Paul Tracy in 2003, who won the first three races of the CART season at St. Petersburg, Monterrey and Long Beach from second on the grid.

Marco Andretti starts 11th and this is fifth consecutive Texas race starting outside the top ten. Andretti has finished in the top ten five times from 11th on the grid in eight starts from 11th. Arie Luyendyk won the inaugural Texas race from 11th on the grid. Charlie Kimball qualified 12th, the best starting position for Carlin on an oval. This is only the third time Kimball has been the best Carlin qualifier this season. Ed Jones will start 13th for the fourth time in his career. Two of Jones' starts from 13th have occurred at Long Beach and both ended in top ten finishes, including a third place finish this year. Since finishing third in last year's Indianapolis 500, Jones' average finish on ovals is 19.333. Ed Carpenter will start 14th, his third consecutive year starting 14th at Texas. Ninety of Carpenter's 92 laps led at Texas came in his 2014 victory.

James Hinchcliffe starts 15th and this is the first time has started outside the top ten this season. Hinchcliffe has not finished in the top ten when starting outside the top ten since he started 22nd and finished ninth at Iowa in 2016. He started outside the top ten in eight races since that Iowa race. Zach Veach joins Hinchcliffe on row eight. This is the third time Veach has started 16th this season. The last oval race won from 16th was Dario Franchitti in the 2012 in the Indianapolis 500. The last time an American won from 16th on the grid was Al Unser at Pocono in 1976. Gabby Chaves will start 17th. This is the first time Chaves has started 17th since he started 17th in three consecutive races at NOLA, Long Beach and Barber in 2015, three of his first four starts in IndyCar. The furthest back a Texas winner has started was 17th by Justin Wilson in 2012. Spencer Pigot joins his fellow past Indy Lights champion on row nine. Pigot is still looking for his first career top ten finish on an oval.

Matheus Leist and Graham Rahal will start on row ten. Leist has finished on the lead lap in six consecutive races while Rahal has seven top ten finishes this season. Rahal's average starting position this season is 15.555. He is on track for his third-worst season in terms of starting position. Rahal has led in both oval races this season. Leist has yet to lead a lap in his IndyCar career. Zachary Claman De Melo will start 21st in his first Texas start. Claman De Melo led seven laps in the Indianapolis 500 before he finished one lap down in 19th. Max Chilton rounds out the grid in 22nd. Despite having started three more races than Claman De Melo, Chilton is only one position and 31 points ahead of the Canadian in the championship. This is the first time Chilton has started dead last in his IndyCar career.

NBCSN's coverage of the DXC Technology 600 starts at 8:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 8:45 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 248 laps.