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Kanaan Not A Happy Soldier In Fort Worth

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 9 2018

Driver Tony Kanaan predicted Saturday night’s IndyCar Series race in Texas would be a snoozer for fans. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Scott Dixon served notice that his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda will be up for the challenge laid down by Team Penske’s three Chevrolets Friday evening when he emerged atop the speed chart at Texas Motor Speedway during final practice for the DXC Technology 600.

Dixon toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in 23:5076-seconds/220.524 mph on the 63rd of 80 laps he completed late in the one-hour session that began at 6:15 p.m. (CDT), mimicking conditions the 22-car field will deal with during Saturday evening’s Verizon IndyCar Series event.

Dixon’s speed was faster than the lap he posted during qualifying (219.112 mph), placing the four-time series champion seventh on a grid paced by pole-sitter Josef Newgarden.

The reigning series champion and Penske’s latest protege, Newgarden secured P1 via a combined two-lap total of 46.9964-seconds/220.613 mph in the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, will start second after posting a two-lap average of 47.0607-seconds/220.311 mph in his No. 22 Chevy.

The last driver with a shot at Newgarden was teammate Will Power, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of last year’s race here. But Power’s combined run of 47.0857-seconds/220.194 mph slotted the Australian’s No. 12 Team Penske Chevy into third.

The session’s BREAKING NEWS was delivered point-blank by Tony Kanaan, moments after his best of 54 laps at 220.418 mph placed him second to Dixon.

I think I don’t like what I see, but I don’t make the rules,” said Kanaan, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet fielded by native Texan and open-wheel legend A.J. Foyt Jr. “I’ll just drive whatever they give it to me. I’m not happy. That’s it.

I haven’t seen anybody passing anybody, so I don’t know. Maybe I finish sixth tomorrow. Starting sixth, we finish sixth. Can’t pass anybody.”

Saturday’s 248-lap/327-mile edition of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” will be the first contested with sanctioning body INDYCAR’s new-for-2018 universal aero kit built by Dallara. The chassis reportedly produces 100 fewer pounds of downforce, making the cars more difficult to handle in a bid to prevent the flat-out pack racing that has become synonymous with TMS.

Last year’s race here morphed into a pack race won by Power. Kanaan, driving then as Dixon’s teammate at CGR, finished second under caution following a four-car crash in Turn 1 on Lap 244. Eight cars were eliminated via a crash on Lap 152 in Turn 3. That combination left only eight of 22 cars running at the checkered flag .

One year’s time and INDYCAR’s latest downforce formula did little to allay the popular Brazilian’s concerns for tonight.

Yeah, I mean, I have my own opinions,” said Kanaan, who has led 364 laps in his 19 starts in Cowtown. “I don’t want to debate on it because I’m going to create too much (controversy). Yes, we go from a pack race to a no-passing race. I think it’s going to be boring for the fans. I don’t think that’s what we want to show people here. Apparently that’s just my opinion. People that make the rules understand a lot more than the drivers, I guess.”

Kanaan, who won this event in 2004, added he believes degradation of Firestone’s softer compound tires will offer passing opportunities toward the end of fuel stints.

Yeah, I think so. But you guys (media and fans) are going to see us running around at 190 miles an hour. I don’t think that’s what we’re here for,” Kanaan said. “Yeah, for sure, tire deg. I know a lot of people are debating on this or that. Yeah, it’s OK for us to drive the cars because that’s what we want. I just think it’s too extreme right now.”

Kanaan also addressed the notion that pit stop strategy might be governed by tire life rather than fuel mileage.

“I think, first of all, we are going to have to check if the tires are going to survive what we’re putting them through, to be honest,” said Kanaan, echoing comments made by Newgarden after his pole-winning effort. “It’s not about the wear, it’s about blistering. That’s become dangerous. It’s not about who’s going to be able to drive. Once it’s blister, it’s gone. It’s not the tire’s fault. It’s a product of a combination of a lot of things that they need to happen together to put a tire to that extreme.

Yes, tire deg, you’re always going to see a tire deg. That’s the way we did it in Indy. We did such a good job there. I also think we got put in a position that it’s not fair. We haven’t practiced in the conditions we’re going to have in the race, and they ask us to predict something. If you’re extremely uncomfortable at 120, 130 degrees track temp, you’re going to race (Saturday) night, it’s going to be 40 degrees cooler. It’s kind of hard to predict. It’s hard to give anybody a feedback what’s good or bad.

You know, I can have my own opinions. I can be frustrated about it because I’ve been around and I think it is what it is.”

Kanaan added he had not relayed his list of concerns to INDYCAR officials.I don’t think my opinion matters,” Kanaan said. “They know what they are doing, I guess. They will do whatever they want. I’ll just race. Doesn’t matter. I can complain. We complain all the time anyway.”

Dixon, who caught part of Kanaan’s comments in the infield media center, began his remarks by explaining his two-lap qualifying effort was sabotaged by a severe handling issue as he barreled into Turn 1 of his opening lap.

“We had a ton of understeer, which was quite strange,” Dixon said.  “Worked on the car tonight. Car felt pretty good. As the track temp comes down, it definitely helps a lot. But, yeah, just trying to hang onto the tires as long as possible. I think it’s going to be the key for (Saturday) night. The track grip started to come up significantly from what we had earlier, which I imagine halfway through the race it’s going to be a ton of grip.”

Dixon then addressed Kanaan’s concerns over a lack of passing as well as blistering tires.

“I passed a few cars out there. I think he did, too,” Dixon said. “I think the conditions will get a lot better. The second groove I think in Turns 3 and 4 is going to come in pretty quickly. (Turns) 1 and 2, we might have to wait a little longer than what we saw in the past.

It’s so tough to predict. You know, there was a bit of a group text going on earlier today 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. I think it’s kind of a similar situation to what we found last year. Yeah, OK, 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.

Yeah, we’re down a good amount on downforce. INDYCAR has a tough job to try to find the happy medium. Sometimes they might get it. Sometimes they might miss it. For me personally I’d rather it be on the driver side of it and safety side of it as opposed to having a big pack race and a lot of yahoos that are trying silly things.”

Dixon scored his 42nd career victory last Saturday in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit on The Raceway at Belle Isle Park’s 2.35-mile/14-turn temporary street course. The New Zealander said there is nothing new about a race at TMS being determined by tire life rather than fuel mileage.

Yeah, I think that’s kind of been traditional for Texas,” Dixon said. “But I think we also, because of that scenario, you see an accident beforehand, too, that causes a crash. I think you might have to be a little bit careful with the pit speed being extended now. You definitely don’t want to be caught out on that. You could go down definitely two laps, you might go down three. That adds a little bit more of a dynamic to it. Probably a situation that you’re going to have to give yourself some room on.

But, yeah, it’s not really been a race for the good past few years that you really wanted to save fuel. You run max-fuel the whole time just because you don’t want to be saving any.”

Several drivers reportedly suggested post-qualifying that INDYCAR officials might want to add more downforce before the race. While altering aero rules has been implemented at TMS in the past, such a change on-the-fly would come without the chance to practice _ creating another potential problem.

You know, I think the biggest discussion I’ve had was that we need to try and practice when we race. That’s the biggest key,” Dixon said.  Friday’s lone 90-minute practice began at 11:30 a.m. (CDT), with the first half-hour relegated to scuffing-in four sets of Firestone Firehawk tires. Pagenaud said that session presented the “worst scenario” of the weekend.

The race will begin at 7:45 p.m. (CDT), when the sun will not be directly beating down on a tarmac that was repaved and re-configured after the 2016 season.

“In the future, we could come in on Thursday, take the cars, run Thursday night, take Friday off,” Dixon said. “Whatever we need to do, but run at a time when the car is actually going to be running the race.

Again, it’s still difficult for everybody to hit it right. Some people want it to be a pack race, some don’t. But I think the cars need to be difficult to drive. It’s not about the chances you’re taking, it’s about having a good car, working on a good car, making it a little more difficult to drive. We’ll see. By the last half of the race, it could be very much like last year.”

Turn 2 emerged as a trouble spot _ dare we say INDYCAR’s version of NASCAR’s Calamity Corner _ during last year’s race. Dixon agreed that the Turn 4 “dogleg” could be the scene of mayhem tonight.

The dogleg’s always hard just because there’s such a dropoff there,” Dixon said. “I don’t know about the other series, but especially with INDYCAR, it’s two or three inches that it drops off. I got collected by (Takuma) Sato last year, put a wheel off there, just hooked him sideways.

“In your peripheral you’re trying to look at the car beside you that’s on your outside, it’s very easy to cut the corner. Obviously then you lose control of the car. I think it’s such a long, radius corner now. It seems to open up a little bit earlier in the previous configuration, the tire can get pretty beaten up there, so then you incur some understeer which takes off quite a bit quicker.

Last year, the second lane came in and actually was somewhat preferable, at least at the end of the race when we were racing for the win. I think we were hopefully going to get the win because we were on the outside and the momentum is just better.”

Dixon, who won this race in 2008 and 2015, finished ninth last year after being involved in that four-car crash initiated by 2017 Indy 500 champion Sato on Lap 244.

Dixon was asked if Kanaan’s pessimistic pre-race outlook was typical of his former teammate.

“No, I think T.K. is always pretty upbeat,” Dixon said. “It could be just how his car is. I don’t know. I hate to predict how the race is going to be because I’ve been wrong many times and it can shift that quickly. I talked to T.K. earlier. I just said, ‘Last year nobody thought it was going to be a pack race, and lo and behold first stint it was a pack race.’ The track temp is just so critical here. We’ll see.”

Round No. 9 of the 2018 schedule will be televised on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7 p.m. (CDT).

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Starting lineup for Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race set for 248-laps/372 miles around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval in Fort Worth, with position, car number in parenthesis, driver and engine:

  1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet
  2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet
  3. (12) Will Power-(W), Chevrolet
  4. (6) Robert Wickens-(R), Honda
  5. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda
  6. (14) Tony Kanaan-(W), Chevrolet
  7. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Honda
  8. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda
  9. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda
  10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda
  11. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda
  12. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet
  13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda
  14. (20) Ed Carpenter-(W), Chevrolet
  15. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda
  16. (26) Zach Veach-(R), Honda
  17. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet
  18. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet
  19. (4) Matheus Leist-(R), Chevrolet
  20. (15) Graham Rahal-(W), Honda
  21. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo-(R), Honda
  22. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet

(W) _ Former winner. (R) _ Rookie of the Year candidate

Note _ All teams competing with Dallara IR-12 universal aero chassis with either Chevrolet or Honda 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines on Firestone Firehawk tires.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 9 2018
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