When IndyCar was last on site at a racetrack, it was at the originally planned season opener in St. Petersburg back in March. Everything was going as planned until a few hours before practice started. Once more news came out about COVID-19, everyone in the world began shutting down, including major sporting leagues. IndyCar was sticking with their schedule before series officials called the entire race weekend and eventually parts of the season were either canceled or races were postponed.
Fast forward to three months later, the NTT IndyCar Series drivers were back on-track for the season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, in what was a hot and steamy Saturday with temperatures well into the 90s.
Hoping to continue his momentum and recent IndyCar dominance, Josef Newgarden qualified the No. 1 XPEL Chevrolet on the pole with a speed of 215.740 mph, while Scott Dixon was on the outside pole with a speed of 215.638 mph, just narrowly missing out on the pole position.
Right up until the green flag, there was some pre-race drama. The No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing of Takuma Sato, crashed in the only practice session earlier in the day. Unfortunately, the team could not repair Sato’s car before the green flag flew. Due to the incident, the Japanese driver was credited with a last-place finish and was unable to start the race. Sato’s teammate, Graham Rahal, also faced issues with his car and spent a couple of laps in the infield when the event was underway. Rahal, however, got back on track but was eventually penalized for unapproved adjustments and for re-entry. Rahal was given a drive-through penalty after he returned to the track.
The drama also continued with the Andretti Autosport team. Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 machine and teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 had problems of their own before the start. Though, despite not being able to start right away, both cars were able to get on the track before the green flag. However, Rossi and Hunter-Reay were also penalized for unapproved adjustments. Rossi was penalized again for speeding while serving his earlier penatly.
Early on, Newgarden was the fastest car of the race and was keeping Dixon at a sizable pace. At Lap 11, Dixon made the pass for the lead and took the top spot from Newgarden. It was from that point on, where the Dixon domination began, but it wasn’t all that easy.
Throughout the race, there 35 lap tire stints. Therefore, on Lap 35, it was mandatory for the drivers to come to pit road for a pit stop. Just a few laps before his pit stop, Newgarden had reported a vibration. In doing so, Newgarden pitted early in hopes of coming out ahead of Dixon on the track. After Dixon made his pit stop, he maintained the lead, but the first caution came out. Two rookies, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay were collected in a wreck off Turn 2. VeeKay’s car was way up in the marbles and came down in the middle of the backstretch. That is where Palou got involved, as VeeKay’s car would clip the No. 55 Dale Coyne Honda. While it was a heartbreaker for both of the rookies, the good news is, they were both checked and released from the accident.
As the early caution flew, that still didn’t stop Dixon as the leader. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver would continue to extend his lead. In fact, Dixon had increased his lead over Newgarden by 4.5 seconds on Lap 70. Seven laps later, another caution flew for debris on the track. The leaders all came down pit road to make a pit stop. During the pit stop sequence, Team Penske driver Will Power stalled but eventually, Power’s car was restarted and he got back going.
From Lap 86 to near the end of the race, there was a long green flag run. Dixon’s car continued to be the class of the field but he did have some challenges. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, provided a challenge to Dixon. At one point, Rosenqvist was on the back bumper of Dixon, where he decreased the lead to 1.8 seconds. Another challenge for Dixon was maneuvering lap traffic. The lap traffic caused havoc for him, as the New Zealander had a tough time lapping the field with around 30 to go.
When the final round of green-flag pit stops pursued, Rosenqvist had pitted with 15 to go. While Rosenqvist pitted, Dixon continued to stay out and wait for the right time to pit. Dixon finally did so with around 12 to go. Hoping not to make a mistake that could cost him the race, the No. 9 driver made a clean pit stop and now he could set sail. Unfortunately, like earlier where Dixon had trouble getting around lap traffic, his teammate Rosenqvist, was sent crashing into the wall after racing with a couple of lap down cars. Despite the strong effort, Rosenqvist finished 20th.
A late-race restart was set up with three to go. Unlike NASCAR, there was some lap traffic separating Dixon and the leaders. This created an advantage for Dixon and he pulled away from the field. The checkered flag flew on lap 200 and Scott Dixon took home his fourth checkered flag at Texas, the 109th victory for Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar.
“I can’t thank the team enough, everybody at PNC,” Dixon said. “It’s such strange times right now, and I just can’t thank the team. It was such a team effort. We had a couple of mistakes at the start and throughout the race, but we recovered. It was awesome. Honda, they were huge with the power out there. It was just so fast. Any situation we were in we could just go for it. Huge thanks to everybody involved. Bummed that the fans aren’t here. We wish everybody was here to celebrate.”
With the victory, the win ties him with IndyCar legend, A.J. Foyt and he is now five wins away from Mario Andretti.
Team Penske drivers, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden rounded out the podium finishers.
- Scott Dixon
- Simon Pagenaud
- Josef Newgarden
- Zach Veach
- Ed Carpenter
- Conor Daly
- Colton Herta
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Oliver Askew
- Tony Kanaan
- Charlie Kimball, one lap down
- Pato O’Ward, one lap down
- Will Power, one lap down
- Marco Andretti, one lap down
- Alexander Rossi, one lap down
- Jack Harvey, one lap down
- Graham Rahal, two laps down
- James Hinchcliffe, two laps down
- Marcus Ericsson, four laps down
- Felix Rosenqvist, OUT, Crash
- Santino Ferrucci, OUT, Mechanical
- Rinus VeeKay, OUT, Crash
- Alex Palou, OUT, Crash
- Takuma Sato, OUT, Did Not Start
Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series will have a few weeks off again, before visiting the famed Indianapolis on Saturday July 4 for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, scheduled for 12:15 p.m./ET live on NBC.