Team Penske continued its dominance at Texas Motor Speedway, sweeping the top three spots in qualifications for the DXC Technology 600.
Josef Newgarden, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was the fastest qualifier and earned the Verizon P1 Award with a two-lap average speed of 220.613 mph in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Kiwi driver Scott Dixon will start seventh on the grid.
“The PNC Bank car was great earlier today and wasn’t bad in the afternoon, we just missed a little bit on the balance,” commented Dixon. 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.”
It marked the eighth time a Team Penske driver has captured the pole position for an Indy car race on the 1.5-mile superspeedway oval. Team Penske has won nine of the past 17 races at Texas, which hosts its 30th Verizon IndyCar Series race on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
“To come here and have speed in all the race cars is really nice,” said Newgarden, who won his fifth career pole and first on a superspeedway. “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, it’s how competitive they make each car they have. They’re really, really good at that. It’s a big credit to Team Penske.”
Simon Pagenaud qualified second in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, at 220.311 mph. The 2016 series champion has been the second-fastest qualifier at all three ovals this season – following ISM Raceway in April and Indianapolis last month.
“It was a fantastic effort from the whole (No.) 22 team,” Pagenaud said. “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 (Ben Bretzman) for sorting that out.”
Will Power, who won the 102nd Indianapolis 500 on May 27 and is the defending Texas race winner, was third at 220.194 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The last time Team Penske swept the top three qualifying positions for a race was in the 2017 season finale at Sonoma Raceway, when it went on to finish 1-2-3 in the race.
Texas qualifying took place in sweltering midday conditions, with the track temperature surpassing 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-two cars qualified for the 248-lap race. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Robert Wickens continued his impressive rookie season by qualifying fourth in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda (219.561 mph).
“Every day in INDYCAR is a new adventure, but we keep coming to each weekend with great cars,” said Wickens, who has qualified five times in the top four this season. “I think today is the perfect example. I’m definitely not comfortable on a superspeedway yet, but everyone on the Lucas Oil car is doing a good job. We were quick in practice, and now we’re starting fourth. Can’t complain about that.”
Power enters the race as the championship leader, with a five-point advantage over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who qualified seventh on the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda (219.112 mph). Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi is third in points, 11 behind Power, and qualified eighth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda (218.894 mph).
A final 60-minute practice is set to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET today and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Race coverage on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network begins at 8 p.m. Saturday. The DXC Technology 600 is the ninth of 17 races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.