NTT Indy Car Series: XPEL 375 Preview

Texas Motor Speedway action - 2021. [Chris Owens Photo]

Texas Motor Speedway action – 2021. [Chris Owens Photo]

by Paul Gohde

After a 2021 season that featured a doubleheader set of races at Texas Motor Speedway due to the Pandemic-altering schedule, the ultra-fast 1.5-mile banked oval welcomes Sunday’s NTT Indy Car Series XPEL 375 with recent St. Petersburg winner Scott McLaughlin leading 2021 series’ champion Alex Palou by 13 points.

Race Facts: Texas’1.5mile oval is banked 20-degrees in turns 1-2 and 24 in turns 3-4. The track was repaved and redesigned in 2017 to enhance competition. The 248 lap (372 miles) run should see race-winner speeds in the 170+ mph range depending on caution flags. In 2021 Scott Dixon captured Race 1 at 173.036 mph. The track opened for Indy cars in 1997 and has hosted 34 IRL/IndyCar events since. Dixon holds the fastest race winner’s speed of 191.940 mph (despite 12 caution laps) set in 2015.

Recent Texas Race: The 2021 doubleheader weekend featured two firsts: In Race One Scott Dixon claimed his first and only season win with a dominating performance for Chip Ganassi Racing, leading 206 laps after starting in ninth place. Race Two saw Pato O’Ward score his first-ever IndyCar Series win as Dixon dropped to a fourth-place finish.

2022 Season To Date: Standings after St Petersburg: 1) Scott McLaughlin-54 points…2) Alex Palou-41…3) Will Power-36…4) Colton Herta-32…5) Romain Grosjean-30… Engine Manufacturers: Chevrolet-91 points…Honda-72… McLaughlin led 49 laps at St. Petersburg for his first series win. Honda scored seven of the first ten finishing spots, but the Aussie’s Team Penske Chevrolet held off last season’s series champ Alex Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Race Entries: Notes: Twenty- seven cars are entered including twenty drivers who have challenged the Texas high-banks before. Five series’ rookies are entered (Devin DeFrancesco, Callum Iliott, Kyle Kirkwood, Christian Lundgaard and David Malukas) along with Jimmie Johnson who is making his initial oval appearance in an Indy car. JR Hildebrand was recently named by AJ Foyt Racing to drive the five scheduled ovals for his team. He and Ed Carpenter are making their initial 2022 appearance.

Notes: Jimmie Johnson has won seven NASCAR races at Texas and will take that track knowledge into the weekend’s race…Colton Herta will test a McLaren F1 car with a possible move there at some future time…Scott Dixon has the most wins at Texas among Indy Car pilots (5), while seven former winners give the field an interesting mix…If they qualify, this will be Herta’s 50th series start, Takuma Sato’s 200th and Dixon’s 290th consecutive start; the second longest in series’ history…Rain caused the cancellation of last year’s qualifying…TV: Sunday, Race, 11:30p.m. Central, NBC Network… Qualifying, Saturday,1:00 p.m. Central, Peacock Premium streaming channel.

Our Take: TMS is a real speed bowl and races are often slowed by cautions. With possibly 27 cars starting the 248 lapper, including five rookies and Jimmie Johnson in his first oval experience with an Indy car, this could be a very exciting race. Competition has been extreme the past few seasons as the young guns take aim at the veterans. Look for former F1 gun Romain Grosjean to be in the mix for the win along with Dixon and Will Power. Hope for a safe race.

They Said It: JR Hildebrand, AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet No. 11: “I’m excited to have this opportunity to get back in the car, do a little more racing, and work with the AJ Foyt Racing squad again. Although the results may not have looked special on paper, I was really impressed by what we accomplished last year in the 500 and look forward to attacking the other oval events on the schedule along with (teammates) Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood.” …Hildebrand will drive Foyt’s #11 in Indy Car’s five scheduled ovals while rookie Tatiana Calderone will tackle the road course events for the team.

Next Indy Car Race: Sunday, April 10, The Streets of Long Beach, California


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