until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Dixon fastest as IndyCar’s delayed season begins

by Jack Benyon
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Scott Dixon went fastest in practice at Texas Motor Speedway as IndyCar got back on track after the coronavirus-enforced delayed season start.

A number of drivers were compromised by long spells without on-track action amid myriad incidents.

The session was always going to be a struggle for the rookies. After initial installation laps for everyone at the start of the running, the Texas first-timers got a 30 minute session to themselves to settle in.

But shortly after setting a 206mph lap, Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Rinus VeeKay spun into the wall at speed at Turn 3, having dipped below the apron on the inside.

That brought out a lengthy caution and ended the Dutch driver’s participation in practice.

He still remained the fastest rookie from that initial session, ahead of oval and IndyCar debutant Alex Palou of Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh – though Palou was top rookie by the end of full-field practice in 14th.

With all cars on track, a brief caution for debris was followed by VeeKay’s team-mate and car owner Ed Carpenter clipping the grass and spinning, continuing a nightmare start for the team. Carpenter was however able to avoid the wall and return to the track later.

Almost as soon as action resumed, series frontrunner Alexander Rossi had a lucky escape from the Turn 2 exit wall, but his Andretti Autosport team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay was not so lucky as he crashed on the exit of Turn 2 with 40 minutes left.

Just before the Rossi and Hunter-Reay incidents, another one of the six-strong Andretti stable, Zach Veach, went quickest, while yet another stablemate Colton Herta had also topped the session previously.

Following that Hunter-Reay induced caution though, Dixon moved to the top of the order for Ganassi as a long green-flag period began.

With 24 minutes to go, Dixon’s team-mate Felix Rosenqvist took over the top spot, before Andretti Autosport took hold of the session.

But with two minutes to go, Dixon returned to the top of the order by unseating Herta, who had topped most of the final 10 minutes.

Just as Dixon went fastest, Texas rookie Patricio O’Ward managed third in arguably the best performance of the session for the Arrow McLaren SP squad.

O’Ward started last season with Carlin before he was signed by Red Bull and ended up swapping to a Formula 2 and Super Formula based programme, although he was always due to miss the Texas race last year.

He completed a session-high 89 laps, giving McLaren a solid start to its full-time IndyCar return in collaboration with what was Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. Its second driver Oliver Askew completed 81 laps and the reigning Indy Lights champion was 15th overall.

Behind O’Ward, Andretti team-mates Veach and Marco Andretti were unable to match Herta’s late improvement and took fourth and fifth respectively, putting three of the team’s cars in the top five.

Ex-Formula 1 driver and 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato was bumped down to sixth by the late improvers.

Josef Newgarden – reigning champion and last year’s Texas winner – was the best of the Penske squad in seventh, ahead of team-mate Simon Pagenaud, while Sato’s team-mate Graham Rahal and Rosenqvist rounded out the top 10.

All of the Texas IndyCar season opener is taking place across Saturday. Next up is qualifying, after which cars go into parc firme, so most drivers are expected to qualify in race trim.

Pole is not considered vital at Texas, with the average start position for winners in the DW12 chassis era only eighth.

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