The NTT INDYCAR SERIES track record at Texas Motor Speedway could be in jeopardy during NTT P1 Award qualifying Saturday afternoon if speeds from XPEL 375 practice this morning are any indication.
Simon Pagenaud led a one-hour session this morning on the 1.5-mile oval, turning a top lap of 223.087 mph in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda. That’s faster than the track record of 222.747 mph set by Charlie Kimball in qualifying in 2017.
SEE: Practice Results
Pagenaud did benefit from an aerodynamic tow on his fast lap, which was set early in the session under bright sun and chilly morning air temperatures in the upper 50s that climbed into the mid-60s by the end of the session. He credited his speed and stability in traffic to new aerodynamic parts INDYCAR has made available to teams to create even more exciting racing at this event.
“I think the package is better, in terms of downforce, you can follow cars closer, and it doesn’t disturb you as much as it did in past years,” Pagenaud said. “You can pin it down, keep it flat and have good runs on the exit of (Turn) 2. I think they did a great job at INDYCAR to get the package right.”
NTT P1 Award qualifying is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET) and will be broadcast on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network. The 248-lap race starts at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, live on NBC on the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Felix Rosenqvist was second fastest at 222.878 in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, with Colton Herta third at 222.786 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Rookie Callum Ilott, competing in the first oval race of his career, opened many eyes with his top lap of 222.257 in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, good for fourth overall. Series points leader and St. Petersburg race winner Scott McLaughlin rounded out the top five at 222.234 in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet.
McLaughlin’s teammate, 2019 Texas winner Josef Newgarden, was the fastest driver without the benefit of an aerodynamic tow with a top solo lap of 220.971 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was the busiest driver during practice as he prepares for his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES oval race. Johnson turned 69 laps in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 13 more than anyone else. His best lap was 220.426, good for 22nd overall.
“That was a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “I passed a couple of cars, ran in the draft a little bit, did a Q (qualifying) sim there at the end, told my right foot to stay down. That’s always a fun argument that a driver has. It takes reps to get there. I feel like I made a lot of gains in those 60-something laps I did today.”