By: Spencer Neff
June 7, 2019 | 3:58 PM
Early in his NTT IndyCar Series career, rookie Colton Herta seems to have taking a liking to Texas. On March 24, the second-generation driver became the youngest winner in series history with a win at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, he makes just his second IndyCar start on an oval. However, the early success in the Lone Star State for the Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie continued.
During Friday afternoon’s 90-minute session, he paced the 22-car field with a best lap of 222.451 mph (23.3040) around the 1.44-mile oval.
Following Herta were Honda stablemates Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi in second and third.
During the first 30 minutes of practice, drivers were given time for pit stop practice. In the session, speeds began to ramp up as preparations switched to the race. Here’s a rundown of the last on-track session before qualifying and the race.
After yesterday’s rain-shortened session, 2018 Texas Motor Speedway winner Scott Dixon was on top of the 22-car field. In this session, three new drivers entered the Top Five.
Aside from Sato’s two practice sessions as second-fastest, two-time race winner Will Power was in the Top Five again.
Seeking his first victory of 2019, the two-time winner at TMS was the lone Chevrolet entry in the Top 8.
By the end of the session, he had turned the most laps in the field, 106 of the 1681 total laps run. One of five drivers to break 220 mph on his fastest lap, Power was the only Chevrolet driver to do so.
After pacing last night’s session, Dixon ended the 90-minute practice with 103 laps run. Posting a best lap speed of 219.976 mph (23.5662), Dixon slotted in sixth.
On Sunday, Marcus Ericsson earned his first career podium with a runner-up finish at Belle Isle. Today, Ericsson continued his string of success, as he ended the afternoon with the fifth-fastest lap (220.336).
From Herta to 22nd-place Matheus Leist of A.J. Foyt Racing, the gap was a narrow 0.5977 (5.563 mph difference). Even more impressive, considering Herta’s lap was 0.1558 seconds clear of the field.
No-Tow Report: Dixon in front as Honda dominates
With qualifying coming up later in the day, teams began to shift their focus away from the race briefly. Since the drafting (tow) effect is prominent, no-tow speeds have become a premium in regards to potential qualifying pace.
During the session, Dixon topped all drivers in that category. Without the aid of a tow, the Five-Time and defending Series Champion ran a best lap of 219.492 mph.
As was the case for overall speeds, Honda-powered cars hold the top times. In fact, positions 1-8 on the no-tow chart are occupied by the manufacturer. In ninth, Power once again carries the proverbial torch for the Chevrolet teams, with a best no-tow lap of 217.018 mph.
He and 2014 TMS winner Ed Carpenter are the only Chevy drivers in the Top 10 on the no-tow chart before qualifying. Only three drivers were unable to turn a no-tow speed above 210 mph.
Among those drivers were 2018 Texas pole sitter Josef Newgarden, 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and the race’s Rookie of the Year, Santino Ferrucci- the latter being from Dale Coyne Racing.
With Newgarden and Pagenaud being teammates, it will be worth monitoring to see if their issues were related, or just an inability to find adequate space for a no-tow lap.
Later this afternoon, qualifications will be shown live on NBCSN at 6:45 PM Eastern. Each of the 22 cars will run two laps and the driver with the fastest average will start on the pole.
As is the case for all oval events excluding the Indianapolis 500, drivers will go out in reverse order of entrant points.
After getting tabbed by Carlin Racing to replace Max Chilton, Conor Daly will qualify first in the No. 59 entry. By virtue of leading the points, Josef Newgarden will be the last to run. This afternoon, he looks to make it consecutive poles at Texas.
The race will go green at 8:45 PM Eastern on NBCSN on Saturday night. Fans can check out RaceControl.IndyCar.com for live timing and scoring as well as radio commentary from the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network.
Lastly, continue to check out Open-Wheels.Com for all the latest news and developments. In addition to coverage of all on-track sessions, we will have additional content online. Also, don’t forget to follow us on our social media pages via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR.