NTT IndyCar Series: Genesys 300/ XPEL 375 Preview

Ryan Hunter-Reay at texas Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Ryan Hunter-Reay at texas Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

Two races into the 2021 NTT IndyCar season and already there is a buzz in the air as the old guard is wondering how they can hold off the likes of winners Alex Palou and Colton Herta. Perhaps a high-speed Texas oval might just be their solution. Texas Motor Speedway, with its high banking and at times scarry speeds, has already caused series’ rookies Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean to tackle a road/street course-only schedule during the season and bring on oval veteran Tony Kanaan and brave heart Pietro Fittipaldi to run those intimidating ovals.

Race Facts: IndyCar has raced on the TMS 1.5-mile oval 32 times since Arie Luyendyk won the inaugural run in 1997, beating Billy Boat and Davey Hamilton. Saturday’s Genesys 300 (212 laps, 318 miles) and Sunday’s XPEL 375 (248 laps, 372 miles) will be the first Texas doubleheader since 2011. Scott Dixon holds the race record at 1:52:47.851 (191.940 mph) set in 2015. Charlie Kimball set the two-lap qualifying record in 2017 with a 46.506 sec., two-lap run (222.556 mph). Helio Castroneves and Dixon have each won here four times while Team Penske has visited victory lane 10 times. In 2012 the late Justin Wilson won after starting from 17th place.

Previous Texas Race: Because of the COVID19 pandemic, the 2020 TMS race was the season opener held on June 6. Scott Dixon, who went on to be the series’ champion, led twice including the final 110 laps to hold off Simon Pagenaud, pole-winner Josef Newgarden who led 41-laps, Zach Veach and Ed Carpenter. There were four caution periods including one for an accident involving Rinus Vee Kay and Alex Palou.

IndyCar Statistics: Point Standings after two events: 1. Alex Palou, (67 pts.) one win…2. Will Power, (65) …3. Scott Dixon, (65) …4. Colton Herta, (62) one win…5. Simon Pagenaud (54) …Manufacturer’s Championship: Honda: (178 points) Two wins/One pole…Chevrolet: (148 points) No wins/One pole.

Entries: The initial oval track race of 2021 brings some changes to cockpit assignments, moving some oval specialists onto the entry list. Conor Daly jumps to the Carlin Chevy, replacing Max Chilton…Chip Ganassi’s rookie Jimmie Johnson sits out the ovals to be replaced by veteran Tony Kanaan…Pietro Fittipaldi gives a tired F1 vet Romain Grosjean a breather in the Dale Coyne/Rick Ware Honda, and team owner Ed Carpenter takes his usual oval turn in Conor Daly’s seat. All these changes still bring the grid to its usual 24 entries.

Notes: TV: Saturday, Qualifying, NBCSN 4:00 pm ET, Race 7:00pm ET…Sunday, Race, NBCSN 5:00pm ET…Dixon and Kanaan have each started 21 of the 32 TMS IndyCar races…Scott McLaughlin is the only rookie for this oval-track weekend; his first career oval start…Twenty-one of the twenty-four entered drivers have competed in NTT IndyCar races at TMS…IndyCar has averaged almost nine winners per-season since 2012. There have already been two different winners in the first 2021 races with 15 more to go…Teams have been allotted 13 sets of Primary Firestone tires for the weekend’s practices, qualifying and the two races…2021 will mark the first time the Texas races will be held in May…Tony Stewart was the pole-winner for the inaugural race in 1997.

Our Take: As noted in our opening paragraph, after two road/street events, the up-and-coming IndyCar   crop has displayed their street/road course grit with Palou and Herta having taken hold early. But Texas is a different animal, and one would think that the veterans of high-speeds and high banks would take their turn up front come this weekend and score wins and top-of-the-charts finishes in those events as just four of the 17 races on the schedule are on ovals (Texas-1, Texas-2, Indy 500 and Gateway). It will be interesting to follow the veterans vs. youngsters as the schedule progresses to see which group grabs an advantage. So far one could conclude that Dixon, Newgarden, Power, Rahal and the others will be in for a battle for the championship; a battle that IndyCar fans will certainly enjoy watching.

“They Said It”: Scott Dixon, No. 9, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda: “So, here we go to Texas this week. Looking forward to it…We had a fantastic race there last year, obviously very strange conditions with the limited laps on a stint. We’re coming back for a doubleheader. We were one of the few teams that didn’t get to test there, so it’ll be interesting to see how we roll off…I’ll try to get to the best victory circle in the season, maybe outside of the Indianapolis 500. Can’t wait to hold those guns and wear that cowboy hat!”

Next Race: Saturday, May 15, GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.



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