The NTT IndyCar Series is back in action after three long weekends, heading to the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday noon. After a frantic but entertaining season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericcson landed on the winning lane.
After the 2022 edition of this race, it seemed like IndyCar and Texas Motor Speedway were headed for a split, with the four-year deal between the two signed in 2018 expiring. However, on September 14, 2022, it was announced that the IndyCar Series would return to the 1.5 mile oval as a new contract was agreed.
In recent years, the track has struggled with attendance due to a combination of low quality racing and COVID-19. The quality of racing in Texas has declined in recent years due to the PJ1 traction compound being applied to the track for the NASCAR series to try and improve overtaking opportunities for the stock cars. According to RACER, prior to last season’s race in Texas, the track had attempted to remove the compound from the race surface, but remnants of the compound are cemented into the surface, fouling corners of the track.
Coming to this year’s race – with seven previous Texas winners in the field – there are a few riders who are proving to be favorites for the weekend.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is a favorite at any race on the IndyCar circuit, but especially at Texas Motor Speedway. “The Iceman,” as Dixon is known, has won an impressive five times in Texas in his 20-year career and will be aiming for victory number six on Sunday.
Defending champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, who has won twice in Texas since 2019, is another rider to watch next Sunday. Newgarden passed Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin on the final lap of last season’s race in Texas and will be looking to recover from a dreadful 17th place finish in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida.
If Dixon and Newgarden can avoid wrecks or pit lane penalties I think they will be the two drivers to beat. Another rider to watch is Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin. After nearly winning in Texas last season, he averaged a 7.8 on the oval courses. I think Marcus Ericsson will be a factor again on Sunday as the 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner averaged 5th on the ovals last season. Although I’ve listed four drivers to watch, I predict Arrow McLaren’s Patricio O’Ward will be on the winning streak on Sunday.
The stars of IndyCar return to the track for first practice on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Qualifications are scheduled for Saturday at 12:15 p.m., followed by a highline session at 1:45 p.m. IndyCar decided to schedule the highline session to try and put rubber on the highline to increase overtaking opportunities. The last practice is scheduled for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and the PPG 375 turns green at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday.