Scott Dixon dominates first half of Texas doubleheader
FORT WORTH – After overtaking Alex Palou for the lead on lap 3, no one could beat Scott Dixon when he won the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, the third race of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season.
Dixon led 206 of the 212 laps of the 1.44 mile oval in a record drive. With the win, Dixon has now won a race in 19 different seasons, breaking AJ Foyt’s record in 18 different seasons.
The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner now has 51 wins, just one win behind Mario Andretti on the all-time winnings list and 16 behind Foyt.
“I love this place,” said Dixon after getting out of his car. “We have the fire back here (in the winning streak), it was a crazy night for us, definitely very tense in the end and it was kind of cool to race against a fellow countryman in the final laps. ”
Rookie Scott McLaughlin came second in his first oval race. McLaughlin came to the United States after many years of driving on road courses and road tracks in the Supercars championship in Australia and New Zealand. Texas was a whole different beast for the No. 3 team driver, Penske Chevrolet.
“Yes, (it was) a lot more mentally exhausting than physically,” said McLaughlin. “You really have to turn the street course. Without power steering, it hurts at the end of a race. St. Petersburg was probably one of the toughest physical races I’ve done in a long time.
“But the oval is completely different. I don’t feel sore, I don’t feel anything. I have a lot of upholstery and stuff like that. The mental game of figuring out everything, reading the track, what it does, is interesting and mentally very demanding. ”
Behind McLaughlin was Pato O’Ward. O’Ward used strategy in the middle of the race and gained many positions on new tires. Dixon’s team-mate Alex Palou finished fourth and Graham Rahal fifth. Palou was the only other leader of the race and led six laps.
Last week’s winner Colton Herta was late fifth but retired on lap 190 after his brakes failed. Herta finished 22nd out of 24 cars.
Palou started on pole position because he was at the top of the participant rankings after IndyCar canceled qualifying. The route activity was compressed after the morning rain had to delay the training by two hours until 1.30 p.m. local time.
The first yellow flag came out on lap 56 when Josef Newgarden made slight contact with Sebastien Bourdais at Turn 2 and sent the French into the outside wall after finishing fifth. A penalty was imposed on Newgarden for contact, starting from the end of the field on the next restart.
When the green flag tires fell off during the next run, O’Wards strategist Taylor Kiel decided to pit early from 13th place on lap 110 and put on fresher tires than the other competitors in order to reach the track position . O’Ward did much faster laps on newer tires, going from 13th to 5th when the pit stop cycle was over.
“It was really, really hard to pass,” said O’Ward. “As Scott (McLaughlin) said, my guys made a really good strategy call and we made up a lot of track position in the middle of the race before the final stint. They were great in the pits, especially at the last pit stop where we were able to get into the last position to get on the podium.
“We kind of took it home from there. We ended up having some brake temperature issues so I didn’t want to do anything too risky to throw it away. I’m happy.”
The next yellow flag came out on lap 160. While Felix Rosenqvist ran in second place, he put James Hinchcliffe back one lap while chasing Dixon for the lead. Hinchcliffe’s car had a certain understeer in turns 1 and 2 according to Rosenqvist. Hinchcliffe’s car slid onto the stained outer groove of the track and with the reduced grip the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Honda No. 29 turned and hit the outer wall.
Hinchcliffe was revolving around one of the main variables of the race. The higher grooves of the Texas Motor Speedway have been tainted with a traction mass set for the NASCAR race last October, so the higher groove can provide more grip for production vehicles. Despite the track’s efforts, the outer groove had much less grip than the lower track due to the higher temperature of the track, making the higher grooves a no man’s land for the Indy cars.
“This second lane is just not drivable,” said Hinchcliffe. “It’s really unfortunate. I feel disappointed with the Genesys guys, it’s the Genesys 300 and we’re out of the running. “
McLaughlin jumped from third to second place and O’Ward from fifth to third place. After restarting the race on lap 174, the top four stayed in these locations even though the leaders were getting closer to traffic as the race came to an end.
Dixon’s victory brings the six-time IndyCar champion 118 points ahead of Palou in second place with 100 points and the 2014 series champion, Will Power, in third place with 81 points.
The second race of the Texas Doubleheader is the XPEL 375 on Sunday May 2nd. The 248-lap race starts at 5 p.m.