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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pato O’Ward Claims His 1st IndyCar Victory At The XPEL 375

For much of the XPEL 375, it seemed that Scott Dixon would claim back-to-back wins at the Texas Motor Speedway, but in the end it was Pato O’Ward who was victorious, securing his first IndyCar win after starting fourth.

O’Ward had run near the front all day, and emerged ahead of Dixon after his third and final stop on lap 189. O’Ward would have been first, had a perfectly-timed caution not allowed Josef Newgarden to jump him in the pits. When the race restarted with 47 laps left, O’Ward followed in Newgarden’s wheel tracks before sending a pass down the inside of the two-time champion with 23 laps to go. From there, the Arrow McLaren SP driver stretched out his lead to over a second and easily led to the checked flag.

O’Ward was pumped after jumping out of the car. “Oh, finally man!” he exclaimed in his interview with NBCSN. “Everyone in this team did such a good job and we bounced back from last week and we got a podium yesterday and we had pace and we got the job done today. I couldn’t be happier.”

Newgarden came home second, another solid result after his recovery drive yesterday, and made several smooth overtakes over the course of the race. “I don’t know that we can be disappointed, but we were in the catbird seat there,” explained Newgarden. “I didn’t have the speed at the end.”

He was followed by Graham Rahal in third, who looked to be in contention for the win until the third round of pit stops when he and Dixon were jumped by O’Ward and Newgarden. Rahal had started ninth but benefited from a good second stop and some slick passes to battle with Dixon for the lead for a few dozen laps. Dixon, who led for most of the day, finished behind Rahal in fourth, with Colton Herta carving his way through the field from tenth to finish fifth. The rest of the top ten, in order, consisted of Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Rinus VeeKay, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. 

READ
Scott Dixon Goes Back-to-Back in Texas; McLaughlin Nabs 2nd

The race had started with a bang—just as the green flag waved, a six-car pileup at the back of the pack put an immediate halt to the action. There was apparent confusion over when the leaders were starting the race, with drivers near the back smashing the accelerator before having to check up as the front of the field hadn’t quite gotten underway yet. 

This sudden slowing saw Pietro Fittipaldi, stepping in for Romain Grosjean in the No. 51 Honda, tap the back of Sebastian Bourdais’ No. 14 ROKiT Honda. The contact sent Bourdais spinning into Alexander Rossi’s No. 27 AutoNation Honda, causing a huge roadblock. 

As the rest of the field reached the hullabaloo, Dalton Kellet’s No. 4 Chevrolet tagged Conor Daly in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet, flipping him onto his roll bar which then dug into the infield lawn, catapulted Daly back over. 

Only Felix Rosenqvist snuck through the melee unharmed, with the Swede putting two wheels on the grass to do so. Although James Hinchcliffe managed to slot through a gap in the middle of the wreckage, he sustained wheel damage and later retired. Tony Kanaan, meanwhile, slammed on the brakes but came away with front wing and suspension damage which put him several laps down. 

Jack Harvey, who had a controversial race on Saturday, was on for a strong result in the XPEL 375 before a mechanical issue ended his day. On the first restart on lap 20, Harvey swept around the outside of both Will Power and O’Ward in one corner to take third place, and was running comfortably in fourth when disaster struck. The issue on his No. 60 Honda seemed similar to what Herta had experienced in Saturday’s (May 1) Genesys 300, with the right rear wheel bearing causing billowing smoke and a retirement for the British driver. 

Rosenqvist, after avoiding the first lap pileup, also lost out on a top ten result late in the race. As he emerged from the pits on lap 189, one of his rear tires came loose, forcing Rosenqvist to tiptoe back to the pits on three wheels and bringing out the final caution. 

Power was another driver whose race came apart late in the day. Power had started third and was fighting for the podium positions until the final restart with 52 laps left. Herta made a bold pass down the inside of both Pagenaud and Power, leaving Power higher on the banking than he would have wanted. He ended up on the low-grip PJ1 stain on the high lane and lost speed at a rapid rate before understeering and brushing the wall, effectively ending his race. 

IndyCar now takes a week off, returning on May 15 for the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, which will be broadcast at 2:30 PM EST on NBC. 

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