Scott Dixon has followed up his race win yesterday in the IndyCar Series with a fourth-place finish in the Xpel 375, the second race of the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Scott McLaughlin, meanwhile, claimed his second Indy career top 10 with a solid eighth-place finish.
Dixon led the majority of the race, only to lose out during the last wave of pit-stops along with the other dominant force of the race, Graham Rahal. The race went down to a fuel fight between Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden, with the former claiming his first ever IndyCar Series win and Newgarden grabbing second.
Dixon leads the championship with 153 points to his name 22 of O’Ward who now sits second. McLaughlin sits a credible eighth in the points after a spellbinding weekend.
Dixon lead off the start as a giant crash unfolded in the mid-field behind, involving Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, Pietro Fittipaldi, and more. The wreck resulted in a subsequent 18-lap clean-up period, with the race finally going green again afterwards.
Dixon and teammate Alex Palau dominated the early phase, blasting away from the pack with minimal positional chopping and changing. Dixon was one of the first to make his first stop, doing so on lap 72. As the rest of the field flowed into the lane, Dixon cycled out back in the lead.
Less fortunate was McLaughlin. He had been in eighth in the early laps, but slipped to ninth after the first stops. Following stops, Dixon and Palau had a two-second advantage over Newgarden in third. McLaughlin in ninth was wedged between Felix Rosenqvist and Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud.
The race continued unabated until lap 116, when Jack Harvey’s car had a mechanical failure while sitting in the top five. It was thought to be an engine failure, but the pit-stop revealed it was a wheel bearing fire. This triggered a caution period, compressive the field and eliminating the five-second gap Dixon and Palau had to Newgarden.
This triggered pit-stops for the full field. In the busy lane, Dixon retained the lead by the skin of his teeth over Will Power — the Australian having a stellar pit-stop. Graham Rahal shot up to third, over Newgarden, O’Ward, and Palau who had lost four positions. McLaughlin lost a spot too, dropping back to his long-held ninth.
Dixon’s lap 128 restart was textbook, seeing him fire away from Power. McLaughlin by comparison had a tougher restart. Herta got a great run on him to steal ninth off him on the back straight, then Marcus Ericsson leaped on him one corner later, dropping the Kiwi to 11th.
It was a chaotic time in the race. O’Ward was on a charge, going around the outside of Newgarden and Rahal off the start before stealing second off Power. Rahal, sweeping by Power, then also reclaimed his spot over O’Ward.
A curious dance ensued. Dixon was clearly saving fuel at the tri-oval, feathering the throttle to a high degree. After three laps of Rahal mirroring Dixon’s fuel-saving tactics, he went around his outside on lap 141. It turned out that O’Ward was also saving fuel, hence him allowing Rahal past.
Dixon spent the following laps sitting in Rahal’s draft, with O’Ward doing the same behind Dixon. Dixon stole back the lead on lap 153, the gamesmanship between the trio continuing. This was a consistent theme across the top 10, with McLaughlin yo-yoing between 10th and 11th with Ed Carpenter.
Mclaughlin was one of the first to make their final stop, doing so on lap 184. Dixon did the same from the lead on lap 187, with Rahal following him in. Dixon narrowly retained position over Rahal. Rahal promptly stole the spot off Dixon, just before another safety car had come out — curiously occurring mid-pit-cycle.
The caution was for Rosenqvist, who had a loose-wheel on track. The big winner of the call was Newgarden, who cycled out ahead of all of the race’s major players. Takuma Sato was the only driver ahead of Newgarden, the Japanese driver staying out in the hope of some kind of late-race reprieve although ultimately he did not have enough fuel to finish without another stop.
The race restarted on lap 198, Sato leading Newgarden, O’Ward, Rahal, Dixon, Pagenaud, Colton Herta, Pagenaud, and Mclaughlin in eighth. Power had also been in the mix, but a savage dive from Herta forced the Aussie wide where there was no grip and into the wall for a soft impact. The race stayed green. McLaughlin was ninth, dicing with Palau and Rinus Veekay.
Newgarden and O’Ward quickly dispatched Sato, with the off-sequence driver temporarily holding up Rahal and Dixon. Sato peeled off to stop with just under 40 laps to go, leaving a ‘pure’ order at the front and questions still over fuel.
With 24 laps to go, O’Ward made his move. He tried unsuccessfully around the outside at turn one, before leaping on the inside of Newgarden on the back straight to get him at turn three to lead for the first time. He immediately pulled a near one-second lead over Newgarden, throwing down the gauntlet for the final laps.
Fuel wasn’t a concern for O’Ward, the Mexican ace extending his lead to 1.5 seconds to cruise to victory. It’s his first career win, with team owner Zak Brown confirming that the win means he will be rewarded with a test in McLaren’s Formula 1 car.
Newgarden, Rahal, Dixon, and Herta rounded out the top 10 — an aggressive Herta unable to make an impression on Dixon. Pagenaud, Palau, McLaughlin, Veekay, and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top 10.