O’Ward Finally Wins First Career IndyCar Race in Exciting Xpel 375

6 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar)

After so many close calls, after coming tantalizingly close to winning so many times, Arrow McLaren SP‘s Patricio O’Ward finally becomes a race winner in the NTT IndyCar Series, stealing the Xpel 375 from Josef Newgarden to finish off the doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in exciting fashion.

With twenty-four laps to go, O’Ward made his move on Josef Newgarden in turn three, not looking back as he quickly built up a gap of one second in a matter of laps and made fuel last to take the win.

Not only is this O’Ward’s first win, it’s McLaren’s first win since rejoining the sport last year. As an extra reward, per a deal with McLaren CEO Zak Brown, O’Ward will now get a chance to drive for the McLaren F1 Team at a post-season test.

The drama began coming to green with a shocking crash immediately putting a halt to the start of the race. A late start backed up the rest of the field that was eager to get to speed. In the ensuing accordion effect, Pietro Fittipaldi ran into the back of Sebastien Bourdais, who tagged the eternally-unlucky Alexander Rossi, setting off a huge crash that also collected Dalton Kellett, Tony Kanaan and Ed Jones. Conor Daly came in with a head of steam to try and squeeze through a gap and avoid the wreck, but got sandwiched by the cars of Jones and Kellett and launched upside down, sliding across the frontstretch on his roof.

All four tyres would eventually end up on the ground again, as drivers and fans all exclaimed “thank goodness for the aeroscreen”.

After the wreck, Rossi was critical of IndyCar’s decision to not practice or qualify for this race, with no other track activities prior to the race and no inclement weather in the area. Fittipaldi, who is racing on ovals for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing and Romain Grosjean, apologized for setting off the incident. Bourdais, after such a great start to the season for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, has now been involved in two consecutive wrecks in less than twenty-four hours.

(Photo Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar)

The race finally began on lap 20, as Dixon launched away from his teammate Alex Palou with a great start and quickly established a lead. Jack Harvey got an incredible run around the outside of Will Power in turn one for third place. Dixon and Palou pulled away from the field as everyone settled into a rhythm, the two with a gap of about three seconds to Harvey, Power, and O’Ward who all battled for third.

Dixon pit for his first stop on lap 71 along with O’Ward, cycling back out to the lead. Palou came in a few laps later and wasn’t beaten nearly as bad as he was by his senior teammate. Josef Newgarden was able to jump both O’Ward and Power as they returned to the track, claiming fourth place for his own. It wouldn’t take long for the 30-year-old American to track down and pass Harvey for third place as well.

Around lap 116 Harvey’s impressive run would come to an end, as much like Colton Herta yesterday, his right-rear wheel bearing caught fire. Meyer Shank Racing has a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport, who built those parts for both Herta and Harvey. Running in the top five like he did in yesterday’s Genesys 300, he finished in a disappointing seventeenth place.

All would make pit stops under caution, with Dixon winning the race off of pit road. Power and Graham Rahal were the major winners of the cycle, leaping to second and third respectively. Palou lost four positions in the pits, dropping from second to sixth.

Dixon had yet another fantastic restart on lap 128, and behind him O’Ward charged around the outside of Rahal in turn one, racing hard in the dangerous PJ1 traction compound left for NASCAR events, saving the car after a major wobble to complete the pass. A few laps later he passed Power for second, before Rahal flew back past Power himself and then O’Ward on lap 136 to take second and charge for Dixon.

Saving fuel, the five-time series champ allowed Rahal to pass him on lap 141, the first driver to lead since Palou at the start of the race last night. His lead wouldn’t last long, as Dixon reclaimed his lead on lap 153. Rahal would be content to coast behind Dixon and save fuel as the drivers pushed both tyres and fuel to their limits in the hotter, slicker conditions.

Dixon finally made his last pit stop on lap 186 with Rahal following him in. While Dixon beat him off the pit lane, Rahal passed the “Iceman” on the front stretch, and soon he took the lead from O’Ward, who pit on lap 187 and was not fully up to speed. Amidst all this excitement, on lap 191 a caution flag came out for O’Ward’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist, who had a loose tyre that came off the car bounce up the banking all the way down into turn three. After running in the top ten at the late stages of this race, he finished sixteenth.

Leading the field to green with fifty-one laps to go were Takuma Sato and Kanaan, who were off the pit sequence of the leaders. It was Newgarden who became the provisional leader after successfully performing the overcut pitting on lap 189, and he officially took the lead with forty-seven laps to go. In the midst of a three-wide battle further back in the pack, Power was forced into the PJ1 in turn three and kissed the wall on the exit of turn four. His disappointing weekend ended with a thirteenth place finish.

O’Ward followed Newgarden through to second place, and made the race-ending move with twenty-four laps to go, sealing his maiden IndyCar victory. This win now propels him to second place in the points standings behind Dixon, one of the men he said he wanted to be “a headache” for earlier this year.

(Photo Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Newgarden continues his strong recovery after crashing out of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on the first lap with his second place finish, giving the Team Penske driver two top tens out of this doubleheader weekend, solidifying himself into the top ten in the points standings.

Rahal’s incredible pace this weekend allowed him some fresh air out in the lead, but the 2016 Firestone 600 winner’s nearly four-year race win drought continues. He walks away from this weekend with a very impressive haul of points out of two top five finishes.

Despite leading a majority of the weekend’s laps, Dixon just didn’t have enough to put his Chip Ganassi Racing car in victory lane for the second time this weekend, coming home with a fourth place finish. While he may not have gotten his sixth Texas win, he does leave the Lone Star State with the championship lead over O’Ward.

Recovering from wheel bearing failure yesterday, Herta finished the race in fifth, the highest-finishing Andretti car in not only this race, but across the entire weekend. Simon Pagenaud improved upon his tenth place finish yesterday with a sixth place finish today, with no untimely cautions throwing him off-strategy.

Though he may have lost the points lead, Palou gained valuable oval experience heading to Indianapolis with a seventh place finish, his second top ten this weekend. Rookie Scott McLauglin also impressed on his first oval races, with a second place finish yesterday and another top ten today, finishing eighth.

After finishing one lap down yesterday, Rinus Veekay piloted his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet to a ninth place finish, finishing higher than boss Ed Carpenter who came home with an impressive eleventh place finish.

Sandwiched between Veekay and Carpenter was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who earns his first top ten finish of the season, which doubles as his best finish of this campaign.

After three straight weeks of racing teams finally get a one week breather, and will return on 15 May for the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

2021 Xpel 375 Final Results

15Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SP2:06:31
22Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske+ 1.244 sec
315Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 5.644 sec
49Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+ 6.038 sec
526Colton HertaUSAAndretti Autosport+ 6.378 sec
622Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+ 7.008 sec
710Alex PalouESPChip Ganassi Racing+ 8.368 sec
83Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske+ 11.892 sec
921Rinus VeeKayNEDEd Carpenter Racing+ 12.721 sec
1028Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport+ 14.592 sec
1120Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter Racing+ 15.318 sec
128Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing+ 16.074 sec
1312Will PowerAUSTeam Penske+ 17.813 sec
1430Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 1 lap
1548Tony KanaanBRAChip Ganassi Racing+ 2 laps
167Felix RosenqvistSWEArrow McLaren SP+ 2 laps
1760Jack HarveyENGMeyer Shank RacingMechanical
1829James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Steinbrenner AutosportMechanical
1914Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt EnterprisesCrashed
2027Alexander RossiUSAAndretti AutosportCrashed
2151Pietro FittipaldiBRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware RacingCrashed
2218Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-SullivanCrashed
234Dalton KellettCANA.J. Foyt EnterprisesCrashed
2459Conor DalyUSACarlinCrashed
(R) = Rookie
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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