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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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Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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