What Drivers Are Saying After Friday at the DXC Technology 600

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Here’s what drivers are saying about the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway after Friday practice and qualifying (courtesy INDYCAR Media Relations):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think (starting from pole here) helps a lot. It’s very warm. I don’t think I saw a person not sweating outside. We’re dealing with the heat. I think this is a big boost for us particularly coming off of Detroit. It was a tough weekend for us on the No. 1 car side. I don’t think it was the best weekend as a whole for Team Penske. We fought all weekend. To come here and have speed in all the race cars is really nice. I think it comes down to a lot of things – the team, the personnel we have. We have some of the best people in the paddock. You can see that. When you have cars go 1-2-3, it shows the competitiveness of all the cars. That’s the thing that impresses me most about the team, is how competitive they make each car they have. They’re really, really good at that. It’s a big credit to Team Penske and Team Chevy as well, if you look at the speed we’ve had during the month of May, the 500. It helped us secure the pole today. That’s a big part of it. Now that we have good speed, we have to figure out how to make the car last on tires. That is definitely the big deal tomorrow night. If we can do that, we’re going to be just fine, find ourselves back in victory lane.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s a pretty difficult track, to be honest, not that easy. Really just trying to go step by step. I think we have a great car here and I look forward to the race tomorrow. I know it’s going to be a long race and it’s been a tough one the past few years, so hopefully, we will have a good one.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “We don’t run in track conditions like this any other time of the weekend, so the only time you’re running with 130 plus degree temps is when you’ve peeled all the downforce off and you’re going for broke in qualifying. That’s the toughest part – the unknowns. I don’t think we did the best job in the Arrow Electronics car today, unfortunately. We’ll do what we can in the race tomorrow, and like it’s been said, you can win from anywhere here. With this new aero kit, passing seems to be a little bit trickier than it has in years past. We’ve driven up through up the field here before, and hopefully, we can do it again tomorrow.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Every day in INDYCAR is a new adventure, but we keep coming to each weekend with great cars. I think today is the perfect example. I’m definitely not comfortable on a superspeedway yet, but everyone on the Lucas Oil car are doing a good job. We were quick in practice, and now we’re starting fourth – can’t complain about that.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “The PNC Bank car was great earlier today and wasn’t bad in the afternoon, we just missed a little bit on the balance. But I’m not worried too much, as it really doesn’t matter where you qualify here because you can win about from any starting position. The car just had a bit of understeer so we had to lift. Not a bit deal and we’ll be ready to race tomorrow night for sure.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda): “The race this year will be a bit different with the change in the amount of downforce we have on the car. So that will be interesting. The conditions here today are a little difficult, but I’m happy with our NTT DATA car. We just missed the balance a little in qualifying, but we should be in the top half of the field and in a good place to go racing for the win here tomorrow night in Texas.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “A good run. I didn’t think we were going to have it for the pole anyway, so I think if we’re in the top six, it’s a good spot to start and a great way to start the weekend. I think we have a good car for the race. I think we’re improving as a team every weekend, so hopefully this will be a turnaround. Our best finish was last weekend, so we’ll try to do a lot better than seventh.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda): “We’re not as good as we should be on these superspeedways right now. It’s kind of been our weakness over the last handful of years. This team has been good everywhere else, but we struggle on this type of track. The out lap was super loose. I had a lot of understeer on the first lap and the second lap was better. It was just an inconsistent balance, which is the same as I had this morning. Takuma (Sato) is doing a good job, but I am just unhappy with the car. We didn’t have a great practice and it just carried over to qualifying. We’ll see what practice brings tonight and try to bounce back Saturday night.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): 
“Overall, it was a pretty good day. The SealMaster Honda No. 18 was good this morning in practice and it was good in qualifying. It’s very hot, so the car wasn’t as stuck as it was in practice. We lost a lot of grip because the track was so much hotter, close to 140 (degrees), but it’s the same for everyone. The guys gave me a good car. I was pretty comfortable with the balance. I had a little understeer, but I knew what I was going to get before the qualifying run. A good run, so pretty happy.

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The first half of practice earlier, I felt like we were really good. Then as people starting doing (qualifying simulations), we kind of fell behind. We took a little bit of a swing at it there in qualifying and just missed the balance. Ultimately, I think the speed is there. I wasn’t flat, I was lifting in (Turn) 1 and 2 for understeer. However, I thought the car was really good on long runs. I’ve struggled here in qualifying and gotten to the front before, that’s what we will do tomorrow.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It’s definitely a lot harder to drive here today in these conditions than it was in the tests. We had a little bit too much understeer in (Turns) 1 and 2 that made me have to get out of the throttle. We’re going to have our work cut out for us tomorrow night, but hopefully, we’ll make good progress in tonight’s final practice.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “We (Team Penske) seem to qualify (on the) front row pretty much every oval. We missed the pole on three ovals so far by a little bit. It was a fantastic effort from the whole No. 22 team. We had a bit of a tough practice this morning. We managed to make the right changes for this afternoon qualifying. I held my breath for those two laps – managed to keep the pedal to the floor the whole time. The handling was really good. Thanks to my engineer for sorting that out. Obviously, it’s super important for us to do well this weekend for DXC. It’s an incredible partner we have…they do all the data and analytics for the race team, basically get all the information from the cars, the other teammates for us as soon as possible to be successful on the racetrack. They’re obviously a leader in their industry, just like Team Penske. Having these two together is a dream team. We couldn’t be happier to have them onboard and be here as the title sponsor, as well.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I’m pretty confident and happy with that qualifying run from the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet. We had a couple of issues on our qualifying sims this morning in practice, just with traffic and things like that, but overall, I’m just really proud of the Carlin guys. We unloaded here at Texas with a very stable car, and I’ve got to say that with how intimidating this place can be for both drivers and teams alike, that’s pretty impressive. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow night – it’s going to be hot and slippery. I honestly think that whoever takes care of their tires the longest during the race will end up the best.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “We just missed the tools the first lap. Obviously, you don’t know what you’re getting until you get out there. This being my first time here, I was a little conservative on the first lap and that hurt us. You should be flat through (Turn) 1, I tried to keep it flat as long as I could, but the front end took off on me. I’m kind of kicking myself because the second lap is what the first lap should have also been.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I don’t think we had enough for the front row, but maybe a Row 2. We just had quite a bit of understeer that built pretty dramatically on the first lap. That’s the way it goes. I think it’s more important to have a car that’s strong. We were pretty happy with the NAPA car this morning and have another practice session tonight. It’s going to be a long night tomorrow night, and it will be about staying out of trouble.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We just have to keep the momentum going – last weekend was a huge weekend for us, but we’ve got to keep it rolling. The points are going to be so valuable, the competition is so close, the competition is so tight that you can’t really afford to give up much as the season rolls along. Hopefully, we can put it together here in tonight’s practice – tonight’s practice is going to be so important. We’re starting 10th, and we can absolutely do it from there with a strong car.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda): “It was a little sketchy in Turns 1 and 2 and I had to lift a little bit because the car was sliding over the bumps; it was a little bit too neutral. But in Turns 3 and 4, I was happy certainly after today’s practice session, I am happy with the speed I achieved. I’m happy that qualifying went extremely well with the No. 30 car under the circumstances. For the race, we are way over 400 pounds down on downforce from last year, so obviously, you can expect that the pack will be a little bit stretched out and it will be very difficult to follow as you observed in the Indy 500. With the banking here, typically Texas is a good two-wide race. Once the sun sets, I think you will be able to use the second lane and it will still be an exciting race.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “We had a problem with the throttle body this morning, so we were only able to do about 10 laps of pushing. We’ve had no testing here as a new team and going into a qualifying session in this heat is just extremely difficult for any team, but especially a new team. We just did the job we needed to do with the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. At the end of the day, at a track like Texas Motor Speedway, you can qualify last and still come back and win the race.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “The car felt fantastic today. The guys have been full throttle for so long and I’m happy with the car they gave me, so I know we’ll be able to get it to the front during the race tomorrow. Texas is one of my favorite tracks because I’ve had some of my best results here, so we’ll see how everything pans out.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda): “I don’t think we had enough for pole, but fortunately, it’s 248 laps – a long night tomorrow night. This is a big home race for U.S. Concrete, and we’re proud to carry their colors and look forward to, hopefully, getting them into victory circle tomorrow.”

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The Thermal Club wants an IndyCar race, and series executives liked its initial impact at test

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THERMAL, Calif. – Many teams in the NTT IndyCar Series questioned the relevancy of having a two-day preseason test at The Thermal Club.

The team owners, drivers and engineers believed the 17-turn, 3.067-mile race course that winds and twists its way through a gated private community (about 45 minutes southeast of Palm Springs) had no relevance to any track on the 17-race schedule.

To the leaders of IndyCar, however, there was plenty of relevance to hosting its “Spring Training” at a sort of motorsports country club that caters to extremely wealthy residents who also are automotive enthusiasts.

“Both with our stakeholders and the media that covers IndyCar, we wanted them to know that we are going to do things differently,” Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports from the private VIP viewing area that overlooks the long straights and twisting turns of the course. “This is going to be a year when we expect our growth to go to a whole new level.

“What better way to send that message than to be at a place we have never been that is exceptional?

“The quality of this place; the facilities are off the charts. The customer service, the welcoming feeling you get from the staff here. The track itself is fast. The drivers are having a great time on it.

FRIDAY SPEEDSThird session l Fourth session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“It really sent a message to our other promoters and our drivers and team owners that something is up. We want fans around the country and the sports industry to know that something is going on with IndyCar this year.”

The Thermal Club is a concept driven by Tim Rogers, who made his fortune by supplying gasoline to 7-Eleven stores in 36 states. He wanted to create a private community that mixed multimillion-dollar homes and luxury villas with a high-speed race course.

The two-day IndyCar “Spring Training” was the most ambitious motorsports project yet for The Thermal Club.

Rogers wants it to be the first step in a long-term goal for the community.

“Our endgame is we want to host an IndyCar Series race at The Thermal Club one day,” Rogers told NBC Sports as IndyCar hit the track again Friday morning. “This was a good trial to see how the facility can handle it and if the facility works for them.”

Felix Rosenqvist makes laps in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Dallara-Chevrolet during the first day of NTT IndyCar Series testing (Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images).

The two-day test was closed to the general public. It was open only to credentialed news media, members of the Thermal Club and a limited number of their guests.

With the spectacular backdrop of the Coachella Valley that is rimmed with snow-capped mountains, The Thermal Club could provide a great setting for an NBC telecast of an IndyCar Series race (and possibly line up a big sponsor for a return on its investment with a larger than normal audience during a ripe time such as the first weekend of February).

NASCAR is using that same model Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum by hosting the Busch Light Clash. The National Football League’s AFC and NFC Championship games were last weekend and next Sunday is the Super Bowl.

“That could work, but we have room where we could separate the public and the private members area, too,” Rogers said. “We could accommodate 4,000 or so of the general public.

“This would be a premium event for a premium crowd.”


Rogers’ dream of The Thermal Club began 11 years ago. He will talk to IndyCar about a return for Spring Training next year with hopes of getting a date on the schedule for 2025.

“Whatever fits,” Rogers said.

Miles and Penske Entertainment, the owners of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Indianapolis 500, realize Rogers has an ambitious dream of getting a race on the schedule.

Miles, however, isn’t ready to indicate that a race at Thermal is part of IndyCar’s future (though drivers seem open to the concept).

“Tim and everybody at The Thermal Club have done a phenomenal job of being hosts here for this test,” Miles said. “Everybody is very happy we are here, and I expect we will find a way to continue to be here. Whether that means a race and when is really a bridge we aren’t ready to cross yet.

“We really like opening the championship season each year in St. Petersburg, Florida. We’ll have to see. But it’s a great way to start the season in this way, and right now, we are happy to be here.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
Defending IndyCar champion Will Power takes laps at The Thermal Club during the first day of the track’s first test (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

On track, it was a successful two-day test session with 27 car/driver combinations that will compete in IndyCar in 2023. It’s the largest field for IndyCar since the 1990s. There were a few spins here and there but no major incidents across 2,560 laps.

Kyle Kirkwood led the final session Friday while getting acquainted with his new No. 27 team at Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood has replaced Alexander Rossi at Andretti, whom Kirkwood drove for in Indy Lights.

His time of 1 minute, 38.827 seconds (111.721 mph) around the 3.067-mile road course was the fastest of the fourth and final session. But the fastest speed over two days was defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing in the Friday morning session (1:38.4228, 112.182 mph in the No. 8 Honda).

Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing was second in the final session at 1:38.8404 (111.707 mph) in the No. 77 Chevrolet. Rookie Marcus Armstrong of New Zealand was third at 1:38.8049 (111.707 mph) in the No. 11 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing was fourth at 1:38.8718 (111.672 mph) in the No. 10. Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske rounded out the top five at 1:38.9341 (111.602 mph) in the No. 12 Chevrolet.

Ericsson was the fastest in combined times followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard at 1:38.5682 in the No. 45 Honda, Kirkwood, Ilott and Armstrong. Positions 3-5 speeds were from the final practice session on Friday.

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
With members’ houses in the background, Romain Grosjean navigates the turns of The Thermal Club in his No. 28 Dallara-Honda (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

Drivers didn’t know what to expect before hitting the track. After the two-day test was over, NBC Sports asked several drivers what they learned from The Thermal Club.

“I think it’s a first-class facility, no doubt,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske said. “I think the entire facility here at Thermal really rolled out the red carpet for us. They did a tremendous job.

“It was a fairly flawless test, I would say, for two days. I think the great thing about this was we had a two-day test, which was fantastic. You got to have this warmup; this preseason build. That was the biggest positive for me, is that we were here, we were running cars. It was a great facility to do it at.

IndyCar Thermal Club test
Josef Newgarden said his No. 2 team (which has a new lead engineer) used The Thermal Club test as an opportunity for building cohesion (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).
Indycar Series Test - Day 2
Josef Newgarden (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

“I think the track was a lot more fun than we anticipated. It was challenging, definitely technical. I don’t know how relevant it is. For us, it wasn’t really relevant to anywhere we’re going, but that’s OK.”

But even though the track has no sector particularly similar to any road or street course on the schedule, there still were benefits.

“In a lot of ways, it is relevant,” Newgarden said. “For us it was relevant for building the team up, trying to work in a competitive environment, be competitive together. That’s everything. So regardless of is the setup going to apply to a certain track or another, (it) doesn’t really matter.

“For us, it was applying the principles of how we’re going to work together. From that standpoint, it was very productive for everybody. Raceability-wise, it’s hard to say. It was chewing tires up. Big drop-off from run one to two. I think from a race standpoint, that would be quite positive. You’d have big tire deg here.

“You’d have to do more work on runoff areas if we wanted to race here, but it’s possible. I don’t think it would take much effort to do the things to run an actual race.”


Indycar Series Test - Day 1
Will Power (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Kirkwood found speed in his Andretti Autosport machine, but he used the test to create a smooth working relationship with his new crew.

“I wouldn’t say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right?” the 2021 Indy Lights champion said. “This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive, and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it actually produced.

“It was quite a bit faster than what we expected.”

Many of the NTT IndyCar Series teams will test later this month at Sebring, Florida, as they prepare for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to kick off the season March 5.

“It’s a very nice facility, a nice area, it’s pretty cool to have two days of testing here with a lot of high-profile people,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske told NBC Sports. “It’s a very technical, tough track.

“It’s pretty good.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 2
IndyCar drivers turns laps on the second day of testing at The Thermal Club, which is nestled in the Coachella Valley that is ringed by mountains in Southern California (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

The Thermal Club received rave reviews, welcomed IndyCar and provided exposure to the movers and shakers of the business community that own the luxury villas and homes in this ultra-rich community.

Could it be a venue of the future for a series that sells lifestyle as much as on-track competition?

“This is a fantastic facility and the circuit is a fast circuit,” team owner Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “It’s pretty exciting to watch the cars run around here. I think it would be attractive to people.

“I’ll leave that up to Mark Miles and (IndyCar President) Jay Frye and everybody else whether we have a race here, but why not?

“It’s a great place.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500