Three caution periods and fast tire wearing were the stories, more than speeds, coming out of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ lone practice session before qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.
Marco Andretti led the 75-minute session, which had three interruptions, with a best speed of 217.950 mph in 43 laps.
Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, in his first race with Sunoco/Turbo colors, was second ahead of Will Power, James Jakes and Simona de Silvestro. Kanaan made it in the 217 mph range with the other three in the 216s.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who ended the session 13th, said his car was particularly difficult to handle with even less downforce on the car.
“It was interesting; it’s really hot and with less downforce, there was a lot of sliding around,” Hunter-Reay told IndyCar Radio’s Nick Yeoman. “I did about 30 laps and had a cut right front tire. We stopped early and decided to not to burn a set of tires.”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Jakes, the breakout star in Detroit, turned the challenges into a positive for fans.
“It’s gonna be a tough race man,” Jakes told Yeoman. “We did a lot of race running. It’s gonna be an entertaining race for you all with the (tire) drop off, and it should be really spread out.”
Tim Cindric, Penske Racing president, explained the nature of the drop off for Firestone’s compounds. After a test in February, Firestone brought a tire that features a slightly softer body construction and tread compound on the left-side tires to increase grip and a slightly harder right-side tread compound to add durability.
“(Will said) he felt a good balance, but night conditions are a lot different with traffic and trying to figure out how to gear,” Cindric told Yeoman. “Tonight will tell us more.”
Oriol Servia and Pippa Mann clocked in 19th and 20th in their first sessions in the No. 4 Panther Chevrolet and No. 18 Dale Coyne Honda. Mann’s DCR teammate Justin Wilson had a substantially loose race car and ran only 14 laps; rookie Tristan Vautier completed the most laps, 62, but only with a best lap of 208.962 to end 22nd.
Qualifying occurs at 3:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. ET) with final practice at 6:45 p.m. local time for half an hour. The qualifying order is below:
1. #5 E.J. Viso 2. #20 Ed Carpenter 3. #55 Tristan Vautier (R) 4. #19 Justin Wilson 5. #14 Takuma Sato 6. #18 Pippa Mann 7. #7 Sebastien Bourdais 8. #27 James Hinchcliffe 9. #25 Marco Andretti 10. #9 Scott Dixon 11. #11 Tony Kanaan 12. #67 Josef Newgarden 12a. #83 Charlie Kimball 14. #3 Helio Castroneves 15. #12 Will Power 16. #77 Simon Pagenaud 17. #98 Alex Tagliani 18. #78 Simona de Silvestro 19. #6 Sebastian Saavedra 20. #16 James Jakes 21. #15 Graham Rahal 22. #1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 23. #10 Dario Franchitti 24. #4 Oriol Servia