IndyCar: Drivers training hard to beat Houston heat this weekend

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In order to combat the draining heat and humidity that’s expected to impact this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader in Houston, drivers have been seeking out those types of environs for training.

For Ed Carpenter Racing’s road/street course pilot, Mike Conway, that’s as easy as walking out the front door.

The quiet but swift Brit lives in suburban Phoenix during the summer, and as you’d expect in a place known as the “Valley of the Sun,” things get a tad warm.

Perfect for Conway, who has been getting work in on his bike in 100+ degree temperatures.

“Living in Scottsdale is the best for the heat,” he said in a team release. “Now, it’s not as humid as Houston but it is like riding in a hair dryer.”

Conway has been prepping for the Houston doubleheader for some time by getting his body used to holding water while training in Arizona. Dehydration is the last thing he needs to contend with this weekend on the bumpy NRG Park street circuit.

“If you start getting hot in the cars, it’s very hard to cool down even though you take water in the car,” Conway added. “If you get a bit too hot, putting your visor up isn’t enough. Just the heat off the car in front of you makes a difference. Being caught in traffic can make your race about 20 percent harder.”

“The minute you start getting dehydrated you start losing concentration and that’s something you can’t allow in a race. In the race, you have to remind yourself to drink because the moment you get thirsty, it’s too late. You want to get out of the race car knowing that you’ve given it everything.”

A.J. Foyt Racing driver Takuma Sato has also been working hard on his fitness. He recently spent some time in his homeland of Japan as it experienced its rainy season, which combines warm temps with high humidity.

Sato’s long been used to preparing for hot races, as he used to race in places like Bahrain and Malaysia back in his Formula One days.

“In Formula 1, it was a super-hot but dry condition at Bahrain…Or the ultra-high heat with humidity at Sepang in Malaysia,” he said in a team release.

“I used to go to beautiful Langkawi Island before the Malaysian GP for a week – just for the temperature acclimation training. There, you start sweating just standing still but then I’d climb a mountain through the forest…That was hard but it was great training.”

You can see which IndyCar drivers beat the Houston heat this weekend in the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston – Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.