O’Ward Seizes Long-Overdue First IndyCar Win at the Texas XPEL 375

Sunday saw Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward clinch victory at the Texas Motor Speedway, his first IndyCar win – and with it, a chance to drive at the F1 Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi.

O’Ward had been in incredible form all weekend, coming off the back of a podium at the Genesys300. With 50 laps to go, O’Ward looked set to take the lead of the race when teammate Felix Rosenqvist brought out the final caution following a pitstop in which his right rear tyre failed to attach.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. Josef Newgarden. Texas.

However, Josef Newgarden could not have timed the undercut better. He was in pit-road as the caution was brought out and emerged ahead of  Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, and O’Ward who had been battling all evening.

On the restart, Newgarden made it past Takuma Sato who was still yet to pit, however so too did his nearest rivals. Behind them, O’Ward made quick work of Graham Rahal to move up to second.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. O’Ward. Texas.

Newgarden failed to pull away from the attacking group and came under relentless pressure but it was with 20 Laps to go where the race was won. O’Ward, with steely determination, kept the accelerator planted into Turn 3 and seized the lead of the race.

O’Ward, who prior to this had come second on three occasions, finally broke the duck as he charged on to take the chequered flag, 1.5s ahead of Josef Newgarden.

Pato becomes the first Mexican to win in the American series since Adrian Fernandez at the Auto Club Speedway, 2004. Additionally, this marks McLaren’s first win since their return to IndyCar and the first since Johnny Rutherford at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1979.

As an extra reward, McLaren CEO Zak Brown will give O’Ward an opportunity to drive for the McLaren F1 Team at the post-season, Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test.

Graham Rahal had been in the mix all race pulling off some audacious moves and benefitting massively during the earlier caution brought on by Meyer Shank driver Jack Harvey. Havey had been running in the top five, even overtaking IndyCar champion Will Power in the process until a wheel-bearing failure forced the car into the pits – leaving oil all over the road.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. Dixon leads Power, Rahal. Texas,

Rahal and Power, who had pitted earlier were able to jump a number of cars – including Newgarden – as the field collectively pitted under yellow.  The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver found himself in fifth. Despite both drivers being taken by O’Ward on the restart, Rahal fought bravely against Scott Dixon who had led from pole.

During the final pit stop and caution which was brought out by Felix Rosenqvist, Dixon held on to his advantage over Rahal. But back on track Rahal eventually cleared the Genesys300 winner to take his first podium of the season.

Colton Herta had a brilliant race – starting way down the field after an unfortunate brake issue forced him to retire from the Genesys300. Herta made great use of the undercut pulling off a great move on Simon Pagenaud to take fifth.

Alex Palou, who had started on the front row lost a lot of position after Jack Harvey’s caution. Like yesterday, the Spaniard never looked like he was going to trouble his six-time champion teammate. Despite finishing in seventh, it rounds off a decent weekend for the Barber Motorsport Park winner who finished inside the top ten in both races.

Scott McLaughlin followed up his maiden podium with an eighth-place, well ahead of Rinus VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who rounded out the top-10.

Power had been in the battle at the front, but having dropped back slightly by the time of the final restart, but came off worst in the three-wide battle as Herta passed Pagenaud.

The Australian was pushed wide onto the high side and crucially – into the slippery ‘PJ1’ section. The Penske driver veered uncontrollably wide, hitting the barrier and finished down in 13th behind Ed Carpenter and Marcus Ericsson.

Takuma Sato, who decided to try the overcut came up short. After briefly leading after the final pit stops he eventually would eventually fall down to 14th

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. First Lap Crash. Texas.

However, the most dramatic moment of the race came during Lap 1 in the form of a horrendous seven-car pile-up. As the field concertinaed, Pietro Fittipaldi was caught out by the late braking of AJ Foyt’s Sebastien Bourdais. His Dayle Coyne entry sent both drivers into a spin collecting: Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi,  Dalton Kellett, Tony Kanaan, and Conor Daly in the process. Daly found himself upside down in a scary moment for the Carlin driver but was left relatively unscathed.

Scott Dixon leaves Texas with the lead of the championship while Patricio O’Ward sits 22 points behind. Alex Palou has slipped to third while Newgarden continues his relentless charge up to fourth.

IndyCar gets back underway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 15th May for the GMR Grand Prix.

 

 

 

 

 

IndyCar Texas Preview

IndyCar’s race at Texas Motor Speedway will conclude the run of four races in three weekends in the most intense part of the season. Texas marks the second oval of the season and it is usually one of the more eventful weekends of the year, as well as being one of the most picturesque races as it is held under the floodlights.

The IndyCar paddock comes straight from the Dual in Detroit doubleheader where Josef Newgarden took the win in Race 1 before crashing out of Race 2. Scott Dixon was victorious in Race 2, having crashed in Race 1… they were certainly two of the more eventful races we’ve had so far this season!

The main takeaway from Detroit is that Dixon has finally got his first win of the season, something that he took until Texas to do last year. Another key point to note is that Newgarden heads into this round with a 15-point lead over Alexander Rossi, which is one of the smaller championship leads that he has enjoyed so far this season, thanks to his low score in Race 2 at Detroit.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Races at Texas Motor Speedway tend to be highly attritional with large multi-car wrecks a common feature under the lights. Last year, Dixon took his first win of the season here while Simon Pagenaud scored his first podium of 2018 – that shows how different the Frenchman’s situation is this year. Only nine cars finished on the lead lap with extreme tyre blistering playing a key factor in the race, as well as contributing to one or two of the crashes.

Texas is notoriously difficult for rookies with four newbies taking on the course this year. Felix Rosenqvist is in need of a good result, or just a finish, as any more bad results could start to put his future at Chip Ganassi Racing in jeopardy because Chip not a fan of crashers, to put it lightly!

Marcus Ericsson will be hoping to not end in the wall as his predecessor Robert Wickens did here last year, though that was one of Wickens’ more minor scrapes last year. The same goes for Santino Ferrucci and Colton Herta, with all four rookies just wanting to keep it out of the wall, though that is easier said than done!

A return to the ovals means a return to the normal oval qualifying format, which is notably different from that used at the Indy 500. Each driver will get a single run of two laps to set their qualifying time with them running in reverse championship order, meaning returner Charlie Kimball will go first while Newgarden will go last, and theoretically get the best of the track conditions.

There have been three driver changes since the last round and one of them, in particular, was pretty big news. Max Chilton, driver of the #59 Carlin, has made the decision not to compete in any of the four remaining ovals of the season with no precise reason stated in the press release, though the general speculation has been around safety worries due to the way the car was handling at Indianapolis.

Whatever the reason, it was Chilton’s personal decision and is one to be respected, with all the drivers knowing the danger that ovals, in particular, present. After his top ten finish at the 500, Conor Daly will be replacing Chilton at Texas, but it is yet to be announced who will drive the #59 at the remaining ovals of Iowa, Pocono and Gateway.

Conor Daly on the opening day of the Texas weekend. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

The other changes are more minor with Kimball in the #23 Carlin in place of Patricio O’Ward’s #31, though funding concerns for the young Mexican mean it’s not certain that we’ll see him back for Road America. Finally, Ed Carpenter is replacing Ed Jones in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing entry in their usual switch-around for ovals.

The first practice session took place overnight with Dixon continuing his Detroit form by topping the timing sheet, followed by the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal with Kimball in a surprising fourth. The rest of the timings for this weekend are as follows, with the race in the early hours of Sunday morning for UK viewers.

June 7

Practice 2 – 1:30pm (CDT) / 7:30pm (BST)
Qualifying – 5:45pm / 11:45pm

June 8/9

Race – 7:30pm / 1:30am

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
4 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Racing
5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 Marcus Ericsson (R) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Felix Rosenqvist (R) Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Will Power Team Penske
14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing
15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
18 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing
19 Santino Ferrucci (R) Dale Coyne Racing
20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing
22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
23 Charlie Kimball Carlin
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
59 Conor Daly Carlin
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar