Now that two NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions as well as qualifying to set the field for Sunday’s PPG 375 (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) are in the books, the question now remains, who will take the checkered flag first in the second event of the 2023 season?
12 of the last 13 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. Can Dixon do it again? He starts second.
That leaves those from behind the initial row at the start to win.
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 13. That’s not good news for Arrow McLaren Racing who has three of the top five starters (1st, 3rd, 5th).
Texas has also led to some dominating performances recently. Every race since 2009 has seen someone lead at least 100 laps in all but two of them and one of which was the 2011 shortened races. The other, Dixon led 95 laps.
The thing is, 3 of the last 5 races however, the driver to lead the most laps though, also failed to win the race too. Newgarden only led 3 laps a year ago and just 54 laps in his 2019 win. 46 of his 54 laps led in that 2019 race came in the final stretch. Pato O’Ward only led 25 laps in 2021’s win.
The top teams at Texas are the top teams in the series. Penske and Ganassi have alternated wins in each of the last five years and 7 of the last 9 overall. RLL and AMSP are the only exceptions with Graham Rahal’s win in 2016 and Pato O’Ward’s in Race 2 in 2021. RLL also won the 2020 Indy 500 too.
Last year, Penske and Ganassi swept the entire top 7 of the final finishing order.
So for Penske to take 3 of the top 4 finishing spots and have now either won or finished second in each of the last 7 Texas races, there’s no reason to question their pace here.
Ganassi played second fiddle to Penske last year in Texas but in Indy, it was Scott Dixon leading 95 laps, Alex Palou 47, Marcus Ericsson 13, Tony Kanaan 6 and Jimmie Johnson 2. That’s 163 of 200 laps (82%) and the win.
For Texas, Penske led 209 of 248 laps (84%).
So, in the first race back on these tracks, did anyone do enough this offseason to close that gap?
The last seven races on this track (all in Aeroscreen), Penske and Ganassi have dominated.
In those last seven years, Penske and Ganassi have combined to have taken 15 of the 21 podiums spots and have led led 81% (1,341-for-1,652 laps).
Last year, they led 219 of the 248 laps run. A year prior, it was all 212 laps of Race 1 and 188 of 248 in Race 2. In 2020, it was 198 of the 200 laps. In 2018, it was 204 of the 248 and in 2017, it was 233 of the 248. The only exception was in 2019 when they only led 87 of the 248 laps.
That means since 2020, they’ve combined to have led 817 out of the 908 laps turned (90%) and taking 10 of the 12 podium spots. Can anyone truly stop them on Sunday?
Top 5 Prediction
- 2 Newgarden – Won last year. Has a fast car this year and starts 4th.
- 9 Dixon – Too good to pass up here for a driver of his experience.
- 5 O’Ward – Great at Indy, past winner here, 2nd in practice 1 and qualified 5th.
- 3 McLaughlin – Starts 15th but led the most laps and finished 2nd here last year. Was 1st and 4th in practicce this weekend.
- 7 Rossi – 3rd in practice 1, 3rd in qualifying, great on superspeedways.