This weekend, the NTT IndyCar series take on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway in the XPEL 375. The series has observed a long three week break after the season opener at St. Pete, only adding to the anticipation of three wide racing at over 200mph around the 1.5-mile oval. The drivers will complete 248 laps, making it a 372 mile long race, to be exact. This will be the 35th IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway, in the speedway’s 25 year history, with Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward winning the 2021 races.
Texas has proven to be a very significant race as in three of the last four seasons, the winner has gone on to win the championship; five-time Texas winner Scott Dixon in 2018 and 2020, who is the all-time winner at the track, and Josef Newgarden in 2019.
Despite its wide turns, this track has little room for error. The 20 degree banked turns one and two are unforgiving as drivers who wash up the race track, coming off the racing line, often spin around upon entering the slippery grey tarmac and smack into the outside wall. Going two wide into the 24 degree banked turn three is only for the bold. Getting tight off turn four on the outside often results in slamming into the outside wall. Three wide along the back straightaway is not unusual to see. We may even see four wide in spectacular fashion like we did at the end of the 2016 race when Graham Rahal came out on top in a photo finish.
Two new optional aerodynamic pieces, the barge board and trimmed sidewall, will be available for the first time this season. It is the hope that these aerodynamic pieces will allow for cars to more closely follow and draft each other, and experience less aero wash from the dirty air made by the car ahead.
One of the most exciting additions to the driver line-up this weekend is that Jimmie Johnson will partake in his first oval IndyCar race. Last year, the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion only did non-oval races but late in the year the itch to race in an Indy 500 overtook any safety concerns and Johnson decided to make the transition to full-time IndyCar racing for this year and will attempt to make the 2022 Indy 500. Johnson has had immense success at Texas Motor Speedway, winning seven NASCAR Cup races in his career, making him no stranger to getting it done at Texas, but has had to relearn how to race successfully round here in an IndyCar.
Also racing is AJ Foyt Enterprises’s JR Hildebrand on a part-time schedule. The American IndyCar veteran is racing in place of rookie Tatiana Calderón who is not partaking in the oval races this season. The beloved Illinois veteran Ed Carpenter also makes his usual appearance at Texas Motor Speedway competing for his own now three-car Ed Carpenter Racing team for the weekend.
The weekend schedule for the XPEL 375 is as follows. An opening one hour practice session will take place on Saturday at 10am Central Time, followed by single car qualifying at 1pm CT. A special 30-minute practice session for seven drivers will take place at 4pm CT for them to further establish a high groove around the track. A final one hour practice session will take place later in the day starting at 4:45pm CT . The green flag for the XPEL 375 is on Sunday at 11:45am CT.
Featured Image: 2021 Texas IndyCar race (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)