FORT WORTH, Texas—There was a full moon Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway and it showed in the racing as it bordered on lunacy. The ABC Supply team felt the effects.
Conor Daly survived the crash-filled RAINGUARD Water Sealers 600 to place seventh in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet for his best finish of the season. Sadly Carlos Munoz was taken out in a nine-car crash on lap 152.
Daly, who started 21st, was up to 13th after the first caution period for Alexander Rossi’s crash in Turn 3 on lap 37. The crew made adjustments on the car and by lap 109, Daly had popped into the top 10. He ran there until lap 123 when he began to drop back. He was 19th by the time he pitted during the caution for debris. It turned out he had a blistered right rear tire.
He wasn’t the only one.
In the second half of the race, INDYCAR officials mandated competition yellows forcing teams to pit every 30 laps (or less) because of the unexpected tire wear. They issued one at lap 190 and again at lap 225, which was 24 laps after the caution for Josef Newgarden’s single car crash in Turn 4 on the lap 201 restart.
The team kept adjusting the car as the track conditions changed during the night. By the final stint, Daly began mixing it up and was in the lead pack. With five laps to go, Takuma Sato was challenging for the lead but went too low into Turn 1. He bounced into Scott Dixon and both cars spun. Daly went low to avoid the cars spinning ahead of him, but then he spun. Fortunately, he didn’t hit anything. He was restarted by the safety team, but lost a lap in the process. The race finished under caution with Will Power taking his 31st career victory.
“That was crazy,” Daly said afterwards, clearly excited about his run. “I think the biggest thing tonight is that I learned a lot. That was the first time ever on an oval that I raced side by side or that close to anyone. At Indy we’re never like that and last year I didn’t make it through much of the race here. It was a huge level of experience gain. We made progress on the car all the way through and on the last stint, I thought we were really in contention for a top-five; we were right in the fight which was really fun. I’ve never experienced any racing like that in my life! Really enjoyed it, it was crazy to spin at the end but we kept going, so overall just a nice day for us to make it through and survive.
"I think my ABC Supply guys did a great job—tonight was a lot of work in the pits—we were adjusting the car every stop so I have to thank them for all their work.”
Munoz, who started 22nd, had bolted to 17th on the first lap and after that first caution for Rossi, he was 10th. He moved as high as eighth before dropping back as he complained that the car had too much understeer. The team made adjustments and he was up to seventh by lap 114, but he dropped back to eighth with a blistered right rear tire by the time of his third pit stop on lap 140 during a caution for debris.
It was during that stop that his luck took a turn for the worse. J.R. Hildebrand was coming into the pits behind Munoz and tried to go under him as Munoz was entering his pit box. Hildebrand thought Munoz was pitting further up pit lane. The scuffle cost him three spots. When the race went green he dropped a couple more spots but then passed three cars in one lap as the car came into its own.
Unfortunately a nine-car crash triggered by Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe (Kanaan escaped unharmed but was penalized for avoidable contact) as they entered Turn 3. It spelled the end of the race for Munoz and five other cars. He missed the car spinning in his path by going low into Turn 4 but when he got on the flat part of the track, the car got loose. He did a slow spin up the track and hit the outside wall and ricocheted across the track and hit the inside wall. He escaped uninjured.
"I'm proud of my team,” Munoz said afterwards. “From yesterday's mistake, we wanted to go to the front and we were coming. We were in the top-10 most of the time and looking pretty good. On ovals, you have everyone in a pack and when there's a crash in front of you, there's nothing you can do. I couldn't avoid crashing. It's racing, it's ovals. This is my first crash on an oval, so I guess there's always a first time. I was proud of my team, we were running pretty good and staying with the leaders. It's a shame."
Indeed, the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 was the best performance by the ABC Supply cars at Texas in recent memory which gratified team owner A.J. Foyt.
“This is the best we’ve run here in a long time,” Foyt said. “I hate that we crashed with Carlos because he was gaining with every pit stop we made. And Conor struggled a bit in the middle part of the race but the team was able to adjust on the car so I’m glad he was able to get a top-10. It’s been a tough season so far but maybe we’re turning a corner finally.”
Power was followed across the line by Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Gabby Chavez and Marco Andretti. Despite the amount of wrecked cars, no drivers were injured which is testament to the inherent safety of the Dallara chassis.
The next race will be the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on June 25th. It will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 1 p.m. EDT.