After almost two hours of Carb Day practice in 59-60degF ambient temperatures, the two former Indy 500 winners agreed that cold air tomorrow would increase the amount of back and forth racing, as it provides more downforce.
Power will need that to help him make progress through the turbulent air from his shocking last-row grid slot, but pole-winner Dixon wants it warmer to give him a chance to ease away from his rivals.
Reflecting on the 47 laps he spent on track during the Carb Day session, Dixon said the frantic action provided a preview of what it could be like on Sunday – although peak temperature is expected to reach 70degF during the race, which starts at 12.45pm ET.
The Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda ace said: “With the weather conditions it was super-stuck for everyone, easy to pass back in the pack, which was definitely interesting… which may show how the race is going to be, come Sunday. Hopefully it warms up a little bit to create some separation.
“But we got through what we needed to. We got the miles on the engine that we needed to. Ran through some fuel mixtures, did the full-tank stuff and all that, so it was good.”
Power said that all four Team Penske-Chevrolets finishing the session was not unexpected – “Low-boost race trim we’ve been very good all the time” – and added, “We haven’t really ventured far from our original setup from the last couple weeks.
“Yeah, in a good window. Got a new engine obviously [all entries get fresh engines for Carb Day and the race] so it’s probably a little bit better. Felt good. It’s just going to be a matter of catching a good yellow, or if it’s cool, you can pass. Hoping for a cooler day.”
Dixon agreed, “It would be a better show, but I don’t think you can call it racing. It’s just easier for everybody. It’s a good show, but it’s just easy…
“I think it will be better for Power, too, to be warmer. I think their cars would be better. I think the better cars always find their way to the front.”
Dixon was asked about how he’d feel if he did find himself battling his long-time rival for the win.
“It will be impressive!” smiled Dixon. “I honestly felt bad for Will [in qualifying]. Obviously he’s a fierce competitor. Seeing the struggles – not him, but the team – are going through for qualifying pace.
“He’s probably the greatest qualifier of our era if not all time. You definitely know it’s not him, it’s just one of those frustrating things. He handled it extremely well. Kudos for keeping his foot in it, too, which made for some great TV, some great internet stuff, as well.
“Obviously I’ll be in the car so I won’t be able to watch it. I’m sure at some point we’ll be fighting it out. Should be great.”
Power said that trying to make big gains from the back of the grid will require the usual balance of care and aggression, rather than all-out charge.
“Obviously you can’t be too conservative but you can’t be too aggressive either. You don’t want to end up in the wall. Just a methodical day. Good pitstop sequences, maybe fish for a lucky yellow, a strategy call like that.
“You can’t force it around this place. You just can’t. You got to get a good balance and get in that rhythm. It’s very difficult to tell if you can pass [when you’re] 32 cars back. Like last year at the start, we qualified 24th or something and you couldn’t do much at all. There’s a bit more downforce this year, I’m hoping that you can, if you got a bit better car, get through a few cars…
“I felt like we didn’t have a very good car at all. We could have finished sixth if I didn’t go long in the last pit stop. You can move forward, no question, just through other people’s mistakes and doing a solid day.”
Dixon added: “If it’s like this, it’s going to be mentally draining because there’s a lot of action going on. You can kind of pass on the front straight, repass on the back straight. A lot of action going on.
“Looking forward to it if that’s the way it plays out. But I think when the pack is a lot tighter, it also has the opportunity for some missteps and maybe some bigger caution periods, things like that. Hopefully everybody remains safe.”