By: Spencer Neff
May 2, 2021
After a record-setting Saturday race, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned to the Texas Motor Speedway for the XPEL 375. Unlike previous oval doubleheaders, Sunday’s race would be 36 laps longer than Saturday’s Genesys 300.
Here’s the rundown from the 248-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, Texas.
O’Ward takes first career victory
Following a number of close calls, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward won his first career IndyCar race. In his 26th start, the Monterey, Mexico native won the XPEL 375 by 1.2443 seconds over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.
This is the fourth different winner in four races to start 2021 and second first-time winner. After three consecutive wins for drivers with Honda engines, Chevrolet scored a 1-2 finish. Three different Honda teams occupied the next three spots.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing (the points leader and Saturday winner who led 163 of 248 laps) and Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Colton Herta completed the top five.
O’Ward joins Billy Boat (June 1998), Mark Dismore (October 1999) and Jeff Ward (June 2002) as drivers to score their first IndyCar win at Texas. He is the fifth driver from Mexico to win an IndyCar race as well. The last time one of his countrymen won was Adrian Fernandez, who scored his 11th and final victory at Fontana in 2004.
Arrow McLaren SP also earns their first victory since making the switch to Chevrolet engines for 2020.
The last time they won was at Iowa Speedway in 2018 (James Hinchcliffe). It is also the first time since 2016 that Chevrolet has won with a team other than Team Penske, when Josef Newgarden won at Iowa Speedway with Ed Carpenter Racing.
Like Saturday, the lineup for Sunday’s race was decided via entrant points, meaning teammates Dixon and Alex Palou led the field to the green flag.
Further back in the pack, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Pietro Fittipaldi collided with A.J. Foyt;’s Sebastien Bourdais, triggering a multi-car collision. Seven drivers were involved, with Carlin Racing’s Conor Daly flipping twice down the front straightaway.
James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi and Dalton Kellett were also involved. Fittipaldi told the NBCSN broadcast he sprained a finger but luckily no other injuries were reported.
Only Hinchcliffe and Kanaan continued but Hinchcliffe only made it to Lap 116, as the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport driver fell out of the race with mechanical issues.
Once thew race went back to green on Lap 20 following the initial yellow, Dixon was able to hold a comfortable lead over Palou.
Through the first pit stops, the Ganassi drivers remained 1-2. On Lap 117, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey fell out of the race, prompting the second yellow flag of the day. Following the pit stops under caution, teams began to strategize for making it to the end of the race on a single additional pit stop.
In doing so, the lead changed hands twice. On Lap 141, Rahal took the lead. 12 laps later, Dixon went back ton the front as the fuel-saving continued.
With 58 to go, another wrinkle got thrown into the mix as Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist lost a wheel coming out of the pits. Fortunately, the wheel stopped in Turn 3 without making contact with anyone else. The caution was displayed for the third time on the day.
During the Lap 199 restart, RLLR’s Takuma Sato held the lead. Four laps later, Newgarden was able to use his fresher tires as he and O’Ward got passed him. After laying back during the opening of the final stint, O’Ward took the lead from Newgarden with 23 to go.
From there, O’Ward hung on and earned the victory, lifting him up to second in the points, 22 behind Dixon.
After a weekend off, the month of May begins in earnest at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On May 14 and 15, the series heads to the 2.438-mile, 14-turn road course in Speedway, Indiana. First practice for the GMR Grand Prix is set for 9:30 a.m. Eastern on May 14.
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Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR