Editor’s note: Practice coverage will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN (2:30 p.m. CT and local time), while qualifying will run at 4:15 p.m. ET (3:15 p.m. CT and local time) and will air live on the NBC Sports App, while it will re-air Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. A practice recap is below.
After a couple-hour delay owing to rain and track drying, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Rainguard Water Sealers 600 first practice is in the books after all.
Scott Dixon went to the top of the speed charts after the one-hour session at 223.422 mph in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams right near the end of the one-hour session.
He supplanted his teammate, Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda, in the process.
Kimball and fellow Americans Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti completed the top five. Rahal is in search of his second straight win at Texas and third overall this season, after sweeping last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear doubleheader.
Ed Carpenter was the top Chevrolet runner in seventh, back in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, at 220.824.
The two other drivers making their return to IndyCar competition did decently well. Tristan Vautier was 16th in his first running in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with a best speed of 219.148 mph. Gabby Chaves was 21st in the No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet at 216.368, one spot ahead of Conor Daly.
There were several yellow flags for track inspections but none for incidents.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.