Track changes have Power unsure of continued Texas success

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Texas has been good to Will Power, in more ways than one.

The Lone Star State is the home of Power’s wife, Elizabeth, who hails from Plano, roughly 45 miles east of the 1.5-mile oval.

The Team Penske driver has collected one win, two more podium finishes and three pole positions in nine Verizon IndyCar Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, site of this weekend’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600. His average finish of 3.55 at TMS is best among the 22 drivers entered this weekend.

Yet, the confidence gained from that past success on the track may have washed away like the water from the morning rains today due to the reconfiguration and repaving of the superspeedway. The banking in Turns 1 and 2 was dropped from 24 degrees to 20 degrees, with the surface in that area widened from 60 feet to 80.

“We had the opportunity to test on the new configuration (in April) and it’s definitely a lot more grip, very smooth,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “It’ll be interesting to see how many lanes rubber in. Definitely (at) the test there were two lanes that you could run and I’m sure with the whole field out there racing, there’s maybe a fourth lane that could start.

“I think in Turns 3 and 4 you’ll be able to run multiple lanes all night (during Saturday’s race). It’s just with (Turns) 1 to 2 with the lower banking, it seems like a much wider racetrack that’s kind of down to two lanes, but you’ll have minimum practice with the weekend coming up here.

“But the thing is, the tires never wear out with the new surface, the tires actually look after a full run almost look like they’re brand new.”

Last year’s event saw fans treated to an intense shootout to the finish, in which Graham Rahal edging James Hinchcliffe by a slim 0.008 of a second to claim victory, the closest finish ever at TMS. Power finished a lap down in eighth place in that race and looks to improve on that this year. The winner of this year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course sits eighth in the 2017 championship after eight races, 70 points behind leader Scott Dixon.

“It’s been a really roller-coaster season,” said Power. “I’ve had some really good pace but just some very unfortunate things; engine issue there in St. Pete, then a deflating tire while leading in Barber there with only a few laps to go and taken out (in the Indianapolis 500) on the last restart.

“It’s just seasons go like that. You have bad runs, you’ve just got to keep pushing.”

Following today’s delayed practice session to allow for the TMS track to dry following the morning rains, qualifying begins at 4:15 p.m. ET. NBCSN has live coverage starting at 3:30 p.m.

Coverage of the 248-lap Rainguard Water Sealers 600 race begins at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

From the fans