Newgarden leads Team Penske sweep in Texas qualifying
FORT WORTH, Texas (Friday, June 8, 2018) – 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. 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.”
DXC TECHNOLOGY 600: Official qualifying results
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).
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.
Graham Rahal signs five-year extension with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Prior to qualifying, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced it had signed driver Graham Rahal to a five-year contract extension through 2023.
Rahal joined the team co-owned by David Letterman, Michael Lanigan and his father, Bobby, full time in 2013. Since then, he has accumulated five of his six career wins and finished in the top six in the championship each of the past three years.
“It’s nice to continue the consistency we’ve had in the program,” said Graham Rahal, 29. “All of this is thanks to the sponsors that have given our team the stability to allow me to sign for five years. Obviously, that is a long time.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to win the Indy 500 with this team, my dad, Mike and Dave. We have been able to win races together and hopefully we will be able to add many more wins going forward.”
Bobby Rahal said the team took an objective approach in its decision to re-sign Graham Rahal, even though he’s family.
“I know you’re going to say I’m biased, but I admire and respect Graham’s work ethic on and off the track for our team, for our sponsors,” Bobby Rahal said. “We’re really pleased that we now go forward for the next five years as a team together because I think the best five years of Graham’s career are ahead of him. Consequently, the best five years of RLL’s career, in effect, is going to ride along with him.”
Lanigan, who handled contract negotiations with Graham Rahal’s management team, concurred.
“I have had Graham drive for me since he was 17 years old in the Atlantic Series,” Lanigan said. “He has won in every series we have participated in together and I am very pleased to work together for the next five years. He is, and has grown to be, the most complete professional both on and off the racetrack, and I am very proud to have him on board for many more years to come.”