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Driver opinions differ on expectations for DXC Technology 600

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While last year’s 600-kilometer affair at Texas Motor Speedway saw a return of pack racing, with the 22-car field unable to effectively separate from each other, Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN) could look completely different.

Based on a pair of practices from Friday, notably between 7:15 and 8:15 p.m. ET (6:15 and 7:15 local time), this year’s race at Texas may see car setup and tire wear at the forefront.

Pole sitter Josef Newgarden detailed that such a challenge is something he thrives on, and he embraces it if indeed that is what lies ahead.

“After you get 20, 30 laps on the tires, I think it will get tougher,” Newgarden explained. “Guys will have to work to maintain the balance they want in the car, maintain the tire life. As a racecar driver, you want that around a track like this, where you have to work to make the racecar better, to last for the full stint.”

However, Scott Dixon, who qualified seventh and was fastest in final practice, wasn’t quite as ready as to completely eliminate the possibility of a pace race, citing last year’s event as an example.

“It’s so tough to predict. You know, there was a bit of a group text going on earlier (on Friday) between a lot of the drivers. Last year nobody predicted it was going to be a pack race. I was watching the race last night, by the end of the first stint, it was pretty much a pack race,” Dixon explained.

He added, “I think it’s kind of a similar situation to what we found last year. Yeah, okay, the track has degraded a little bit, probably lost a little bit of grip. But Firestone in turn brought a little softer tire, which I think will help.”

Yet, while Newgarden and Dixon expressed optimism about the situation at hand, Tony Kanaan was much more pessimistic.

Kanaan, citing a lack of aerodynamic downforce this year along with problems with tire blistering – he was one of several drivers who experienced blistering in the near 100-degree heat during Friday practice – expressed a fear that the package may have gone too far the other way.

“I know a lot of people are debating on this or that. Yeah, it’s okay for us to drive the cars because that’s what we want. I just think it’s too extreme right now,” Kanaan lamented.

Conditions for Saturday night’s race could be somewhat different in comparison with Friday practice. Practice 1 was held in the middle of the day – 11:30 a.m. local time – and final practice finished up at 7:15 local time.

Saturday’s race begins at 7:45 p.m. local time (8:45 ET), and while the ambient temperature will be around 90 degrees, the nighttime conditions could see track temperatures cool, and even the slightest variance in track temps could have a drastic impact on the race, as the aforementioned Dixon indicated.

“Last year nobody thought it was going to be a pack race, and lo and behold first stint it was a pack race. We’ll see. The track temp is just so critical here.”

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Coyne signs Ferrucci for final two IndyCar races of 2018

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Dale Coyne Racing will field a third entry at the Grand Prix of Portland and the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma for former Haas F1 test and reserve driver Santino Ferrucci, the team revealed earlier on Friday.

Ferrucci previously raced with Coyne at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, where he finished 22nd and 20th, and will drive alongside Sebastien Bourdais and Pietro Fittipaldi. The entry, the No. 39 Honda, will also feature sponsorship from Cly-Del, a Connecticut-based manufacturing company.

“I am extremely grateful to Dale (Coyne) and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing for giving me this opportunity to get back behind the wheel of an IndyCar in Portland and Sonoma,” said Ferrucci, who had been racing in FIA Formula 2 this year until it came to an unceremonious end in July.

Ferrucci continued, “I’m also excited to be bringing my long-time sponsor Cly-Del on board and introducing them to the world of IndyCar racing. I truly enjoyed my time with Dale Coyne Racing in Detroit earlier this season and I couldn’t be more excited to be back with them for a couple more races as I look to the future and enter the next chapter of my career.”

Team owner Dale Coyne highlighted the team’s experience with Ferrucci as a motivating factor in signing him up again for the final two races.

“We were very impressed with Santino at Detroit this year, and not just by his performance behind the wheel, but also by his professionalism and maturity outside of the race car,” said Coyne.

Coyne added, “We’ve had lengthy discussions with Santino in the past few months and we’re excited to have him back for the final two rounds of the season. We look forward to seeing what he will do with this opportunity as he gets back behind the wheel of an Indy Car. We’re also happy to welcome Cly-Del to our ever-growing family of sponsors.”

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