INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: Texas Track Trends

TRACK: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5 mile, oval with a dogleg), DISTANCE: 248 Laps (372 Miles)

TRACK HISTORY/TRENDS

Other than Indy or Long Beach, this is the next longest venue on the circuit. INDYCAR has been coming to Texas every year since 1996. This weekend will mark the 35th race held on the 1.5-mile track. This will be the second straight time though that the race weekend will be held outside of the month of June. Last year it was in early May. The only other exception was that the 2016 race weekend which was started in June but due to so much rain, wasn’t completed until August.

  • 11 of the last 12 winners have come from a starting spot off the front row. Scott Dixon’s win in 2020 was the only exception since 2011 that someone won from the first or second starting spot.
  • From 2003 though Race 1 of 2011, there were 11 straight races to where the race winner came from the top five of the starting lineup. It’s only happened five times in the last 12.
  • Few cautions may occur too. We’ve had 4 of fewer in 13 of the last 15 Texas races run.
  • There’s been single digit lead changes in 3 of the last 5 Texas races.
  • 1 groove track now due to the PJ1 compound.
  • This is a 3 stop strategy type of race, but it’s all about timing the stints right.
  • If you count backwards, the final pit window would take place from Lap 183 on. If that final stint stays green, the guys that pit early will have a quicker burst of speed, but fall off as the run goes on. The guys that pit later will lose time to the guys with newer tires, but gain time when it counts in the end. Pit too soon, you’re a sitting duck. Pit too late, you don’t have enough time to catch up. There’s a happy medium. But, you have to manage your tires too. You have to lay a set at the end in case for a late race caution which changes everything. Then, the second to last stint would be Lap 118. That doesn’t count any other yellow flags though, where it would be wise to pit under caution then having to come down on green flag sequences. You can’t afford to not pit under caution because not doing so and having to pit under green while most others don’t, well you’ll surely lose at least a lap in the process.

TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM

The only comparison to Texas now would be Indianapolis since both run the superspeedway package, but you really can’t compare those 2 since Texas is a full 1 mile shorter in length. Texas is a track that really just stands on it’s own.

The top teams at Texas are the top teams in the series. Penske and Ganassi have alternated wins in each of the last four years and 6 of the last 8 overall. RLL and AMSP are the only exceptions with Graham Rahal’s win in 2016 and Pato O’Ward’s in Race 2 last year. RLL also won the 2020 Indy 500 too.

Honda has taken 4 of the last 7 overall at Texas. But, those are also their only wins at Texas since 2013 too. Despite that, they’ve been the tops on the superspeedway package in general too lately which is why they have to be the favorites this Sunday.

Last year, Scott Dixon led 206 of the 212 laps in Race No. 1 en route to a dominating win. Graham Rahal, another Honda driver, led the other six laps. Honda put three cars in the top five that night and six in the top nine overall.

A day later, a Chevy (Pato O’Ward) won but Honda’s combined to lead 191 of the 248 laps.

At Indy, Honda went 1-2 and led 92 of 200 laps that day.

A year prior, they put 8 cars in the Fast 9 at Indy, swept the top 4 finishing spots and led 180 of 200 laps. At Texas that year, they had two cars in the top four and combined to lead 159 of 200 laps that night too.

In 2019, Josef Newgarden won at Texas in a Chevrolet powered car, but Honda drivers accounted for leading 194 of the 248 completed laps though and took four of the top five finishing positions including six of the top eight even. Newgarden, was the only Chevy driver to lead and he did so all at the end. He was also the only Chevy driver to lead in 2020 too as no other Chevy driver has led a lap at Texas since 2018. In 2018 in fact, Honda led 66-percent of the laps (162 of 248) too and took eight of the top nine finishing positions then as well.

That’s Honda leading 80-percent (918 out of 1,156) of the Texas laps over the last three years.

That’s why Honda teams are the favorites.

Favorites

Scott Dixon

This will be his 23rd career Texas start. He’s won four times, three of which coming since 2015 including 3 of the last 5 overall.

Josef Newgarden

He won this race in 2019 and was third a year later and sixth and second respectively last year.

Pato O’Ward

He was third and first respectively in his two starts last year at Texas with the win on Sunday being his first career trip to victory lane in an INDYCAR.

Alex Palou

He was runner-up in the Indy 500 to go along with a pair of top seven’s at Texas in 2021.

Graham Rahal

He’s a past winner (2016) and has six top six results in his last seven Texas tries.

Sleepers

Helio Castroneves

Outside of Tony Kanaan, no one else has more experience at Texas than Castroneves. He’s won here four times and just won the Indy 500 last season. 3 top fives in his last five Texas starts make him a formidable sleeper on Sunday.

Colton Herta

He was fifth in Race 2 last year and seventh in 2020. That’s two top seven’s in his last three Texas starts. He was only 18th and 20th in his other two Texas starts which is why he’s on the sleepers and not favorites list.

Alexander Rossi

Only two top fives in seven Texas starts has him on this list. But, he’s a great superspeedway racer which is also why he’s on this list.

Scott McLaughlin

A runner-up in his Texas debut was eye opening enough. An eighth place run a day later was even better. He enters having won the season opener last month.

Simon Pagenaud

He has three podiums in his last six Texas starts including seven straight top 10’s.


Of Note

Honda have led 80-percent (918 out of 1,156) of the Texas laps over the last three years.


Key Stat

Scott Dixon has led 526 of the last 660 laps (80%) at Texas.

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