Since the PJ1 TrackBite was added to parts of the track surface in November 2019 to boost traction for the Goodyear tires of the NASCAR stock cars, IndyCar drivers have found it thoroughly incompatible with their Firestone rubber, some comparing it to black ice.
In effect, IndyCar drivers at full racing speed – as opposed to Lap 1 speeds as shown above – have been reduced to one lane through Turns 1 and 2, so the chances of passing on the outside are non-existent, and anyone passing on the outside along the main straight has to chop down in front of the car he has just passed in order to avoid the PJ1 patch in the turn.
The patch also meant that drivers were unable to take a variety of lines through Turns 1 and 2 in order to pull off an over/under maneuver and perform a slingshot pass down the back straight.
Since then, the PJ1 has been replaced by a resin, which may have improved the situation, although the recent tests suggested passes were still difficult.
However, IndyCar has decreed that on Saturday from 4.00 to 4.30pm local (Central) time – post-qualifying but before second practice – seven cars will be allowed to lap the 1.5-mile oval in the higher groove to allow them to help add rubber and remove dust from the the higher lane.
The drivers participating in this session will be former Texas winners Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet, Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing-Honda, Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet, and Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Will Power, along with Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda), Felix Rosenqvist (Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet) and Takuma Sato (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda).
Combined, they will use a total of 10 sets of Firestone tires from last year’s race, one per driver except for Rahal and Power who will receive two sets each.
Final practice for all drivers will then commence at 4.45pm local (Central) time.
Revised schedule for XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway
Saturday, March 19
9.45-9.55am – Two-stage pit-limiter practice
10.00-11.00am – First practice – Peacock Premium
1.00pm – Qualifying – Peacock Premium
4.00-4.30pm – Special session to open up second lane (seven drivers)
4.45-5.45pm – Final practice – Peacock Premium
Sunday, March 20
11.30am – NBC on air
11.40am – “Drivers, start your engines” – NBC, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app
11.45am – Green flag: XPEL 375 (248 laps / 372 miles) – NBC live