Switch to day race forces changes in car setup for Firestone 600

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FORT WORTH, Texas – The last time the Verizon IndyCar Series conducted a day race at Texas Motor Speedway was in October 2004. Following postponement Saturday night of the Firestone 600, teams and drivers must make the adjustment to racing in warmer temperatures and potential sunshine this afternoon.

The 248-lap race on the 1.455-mile oval is slated for the green flag at 2:06 p.m. ET – in the middle of the midday Texas heat. The telecast begins at 2 p.m. ET on CNBC (and the NBC Sports Live Extra app) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

CLICK HERE: Firestone 600 starting lineup

Only four drivers in the 22-car field were competing in that day race to close the 2004 season – race winner Helio Castroneves, runner-up Tony Kanaan (who clinched his lone season championship that day), sixth-place Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter, who finished last after crashing on the fourth lap.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done a day race here,” said Carpenter, now a team owner and driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet that starts 14th today. “The track’s changed a lot. I think night races are always better, but when you get into situations like this, you’ve got to make due.

“It’s the same for everyone. Hopefully a lot of people come out and enjoy the show today.”

Carpenter has driven in 14 previous races at Texas Motor Speedway, including his most recent Verizon IndyCar Series win two years ago. A veteran of both day and night events on the high banks of TMS, he is well aware that the change in start time necessitates change in car setup.

“The biggest thing that changes is the track temperature,” Carpenter said. “It’s overcast so far today so the track temp’s staying low, but as soon as you start getting sun and the track temp comes up, that has a pretty big effect on our cars.

“I think you’ll see everyone adjusting their downforce levels based upon that. It seems like everyone’s adding a little bit so far.”

Tire wear and management was a key consideration for teams coming into the weekend, and is more top of mind today. Firestone’s tires are designed to lose some of their performance edge throughout a stint – a fuel load is approximately 40-42 laps – but higher track temperatures could result in faster tire degradation.

“That’s the biggest thing we’ll be watching,” Carpenter admitted. “With the track temp being higher, it’s a little harder on the tires. That may affect the drop-off a little bit, the tire management. You might see guys stopping (to change tires) a little earlier. We’ll see how it goes.”

Carlos Munoz starts from pole position today in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, with defending race winner Scott Dixon alongside on Row 1 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Castroneves, a four-time winner at Texas, starts third in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevy.

Points leader Simon Pagenaud goes off sixth in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy, with Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi starting from ninth in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.

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