In what appeared to be a dominant victory within grasp for Scott McLaughlin for the second consecutive time into a new season of racing, teammate Josef Newgarden spoiled the party as he overtook McLaughlin with a daring pass on the outside lane on the final lane and with the finish in sight to win the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 20.
The 31-year-old Newgarden from Hendersonville, Tennessee, led a total of three of 248-scheduled laps compared to McLaughlin’s 186, but benefitted with the last lap pass and lapped traffic that briefly stalled McLaughlin’s progress to become the second winner of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday that determined the starting lineup, Felix Rosenqvist captured the pole position after posting a pole-winning, two-lap average of 221.110 mph. Joining him on the front row was Scott McLaughlin, who earned his maiden IndyCar victory at the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, in February and posted a two-lap average at 221.096 mph.
Prior to the event, Santino Ferrucci replaced Jack Harvey in the No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara-Honda after Harvey did not receive medical clearance to compete following a practice accident on Saturday.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Rosenqvist maintained a steady advantage for nearly a full lap until McLaughlin used the outside lane to lead the first lap by a hair.
As the field fanned out and jostled for positions early, McLaughlin was out in front followed by Rosenqvist, Will Power, Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves, who was being pressured by Colton Herta for more.
Through the first 10 laps of the event, McLaughlin was leading by two-tenths of a second over Rosenqvist while Sato, Power and Herta were in the top five. Castroneves was in sixth followed by Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson and Rinus Veekay. By then, Alexander Rossi, who was in 12th place, was penalized for jumping the start when he pulled his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda out of line prior to the start.
Two laps later, the first caution of the event flew when Rossi fell off the pace due to a mechanical issue and was creeping to pit road below the apron.
Four laps later, the race restarted under green. At the start, McLaughlin retained the lead ahead of Rosenqvist and Sato as the field settled in a long single-file line.
By Lap 25, McLaughlin was leading by nearly three-tenths of a second over Rosenqvist followed by Sato, Herta and Power while Castroneves, Dixon, Pato O’Ward, Ericsson and rookie Kyle Kirkwood were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Newgarden was back in 11th, Alex Palou was in 13th ahead of Romain Grosjean and Simon Pagenaud and Jimmie Johnson was in 20th ahead of Graham Rahal.
Through the first 50 laps of the event, McLaughlin stabilized his advantage to nearly two seconds over Rosenqvist while Sato, Herta, Power, Castroneves, Dixon, O’Ward, Kirkwood and Newgarden were scored in the top 10.
Nearly five laps later, pit stops under green commenced as Rinus VeeKay pitted followed by Marcus Ericsson and the leader McLaughlin. During the pit stops, David Malukas stalled his car while trying to exit his pit stall and nearly collided with Sato, which cost the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion from Japan time on pit road.
By Lap 75 and with the pit stop cycle under green complete, McLaughlin was back in the lead by more than 12 seconds over his Team Penske teammate Newgarden while Arrow McLaren SP’s O’Ward and Rosenqvist battled for third place. Behind, Herta for Andretti Autosport was in fifth ahead of Ericsson, Dixon, Power, VeeKay and Castroneves. Meanwhile, Conor Daly was penalized for pit speed violation.
On Lap 99, the caution flew when Sato slipped in the marbles and made light contact against the outside wall in Turn 1 as a result of making earlier contact with Devlin DeFrancesco’s No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Dallara-Honda entering the turn. By then, McLaughlin had his advantage of nearly 12 seconds over teammate Newgarden reduced to half.
Under caution, the leaders pitted and McLaughlin retained the lead ahead of teammates Newgarden and Power along with Dixon and Ericsson. During the pit stops, O’Ward hit his left-front tire changer while teammate Rosenqvist overshot his pit stall and endured a slow pit stop, which cost him time and positions. In addition, Romain Grosjean retired due to a mechanical issue to his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda.
When the race restarted on Lap 113, McLaughlin retained the lead ahead of teammates Newgarden and Power as the field scrambled for positions.
Just then, the caution returned when Kyle Kirkwood, who was battling DeFrancesco on the outside lane through Turns 3 and 4, got loose, spun and backed his No. 14 AJ Foyt Dallara-Chevrolet against the outside wall, which ended his day with a wrecked race car.
With the race surpassing its halfway mark under caution on Lap 124, McLaughlin was out in front ahead of teammates Newgarden and Power along with Dixon, Ericsson, VeeKay, Herta, Alex Palou, Pagenaud and Graham Rahal, who started at the rear of the field.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 127, McLaughlin retained the lead ahead of teammates Newgarden, Power and the field. Not long after, however, the caution returned for a multi-car wreck that involved DeFrancesco, Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves in Turn 3. During the caution period, Rosenqvist’s strong start to the weekend ended on a low note after he retired due to a mechanical issue to his No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara-Chevrolet
With the event reaching the final 100 scheduled laps, the race restarted under green. At the start, McLaughlin maintained a steady lead until Newgarden assumed the top spot a lap later. Behind, Rinus VeeKay charged his way towards the front as he moved into the top four before moving into third place ahead of Power.
Shortly after, the battle for the lead ignited as McLaughlin reassumed the lead while VeeKay joined the battle and overtook Newgarden for the runner-up spot.
On Lap 159, VeeKay moved his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara-Chevrolet to the top spot. Five laps later, however, Power muscled his No. 12 Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet to the lead as Scott Dixon was in third place.
With less than 50 laps remaining and pit stops under green occurring for a majority of the field, David Malukas, who has yet to pit, was leading followed by Callum Ilott. Behind, VeeKay, who pitted, was in third ahead of McLaughlin and Newgarden.
On Lap 206, McLaughlin cycled back to the lead after Ilott pitted while Newgarden, VeeKay, Ericsson and Power were in the top five. Behind, Pagenaud was in sixth while Jimmie Johnson was up in seventh place ahead of teammates Scott Dixon and Alex Palou.
With 30 laps remaining, McLaughlin was leading by nearly a second over teammate Newgarden while Ericsson was in third place. Power was in fourth ahead of VeeKay while Pagenaud, Johnson, Dixon, Palou and Santino Ferrucci were in the top 10.
Ten laps later, McLaughlin continued to lead by more than two-tenths of a second over teammate Newgarden while Ericsson remained in the final podium spot in third place. While Power and Pagenaud settled in fourth and fifth, Johnson was up in sixth place.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, McLaughlin was leading by four-tenths of a second over teammate Newgarden amid lapped traffic followed by Ericsson while Power and Johnson were in the top five. Pagenaud, Dixon and Palou were in sixth, seventh and eighth while VeeKay was back in ninth ahead of Ferrucci.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, McLaughlin, who continued to navigate his way through lapped traffic, stabilized his advantage to three-tenths of a second over teammate Newgarden, who was trying to reduce the gap between himself and his Penske teammate. Then with McLaughlin mired behind some more lapped cars, this allowed Newgarden to narrow the deficit and gain a huge run to the outside of teammate McLaughlin through Turn 3. With both Penske teammates dead even approaching the finish line, Newgarden muscled ahead and stole the show and the win by 0.0669 seconds over McLaughlin.
The victory was Newgarden’s first of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season, second at Texas and the 21st of his career. With the victory, Newgarden also rewarded the 600th overall motorsports win for Team Penske as he ignites his bid for his third IndyCar title.
“Oh my gosh!” Newgarden exclaimed on NBC. “I was fuming in the car. We had all this traffic and it wasn’t helping me. And then right when I needed it to help me, it helped me literally last corner, last lap. The traffic helped me out. Unbelievable. I hate doing that to a teammate, but I was going for it just like he was. We were driving hard. Man, I was loose. I was driving things sideways off in [Turns] 3 and 4 every lap I was trying to get a run, but Team Chevy, what an unbelievable job. Just so pleased for everybody. It was so good to drive this PPG car again with Team Chevy. That’s what it’s all about at Texas. I hope we come back [to Texas]. Let’s come back!”
McLaughlin, who led a race-high 186 of 248 laps, settled in second place as he fell short in his bid to claim back-to-back IndyCar victories. Despite the result, McLaughlin made a trip to Victory Lane to congratulate teammate Newgarden on the win.
“Second’s a great day,” McLaughlin said. “Unfortunately, we led a lot of laps and at the end of the day, we lost it though. If you’re gonna lose to anyone, your teammate is a great guy to lose it to. Congrats to Josef and the PPG team. Gutted I couldn’t get it done for XPEL and Chevy but at the end of the day, with the air, I learned a lot [from] this race. I’m gutted. It’s how it is, but I’m pretty proud of how we’re running.”
Ericsson came home in a strong third place for his fifth top-three career result in IndyCar competition while Will Power and Scott Dixon finished in the top five.
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson achieved his maiden top-10 result in IndyCar competition after methodically racing his way to a career-best sixth-place result in his maiden IndyCar oval event and at a track where he won at seven times in NASCAR.
“I had hoped to qualify in the top 10 and race in the top 10,” Johnson said. “Once we hit the halfway point in the race, I really could sense and feel the car, and it became second nature, and off I went. I’m just very thankful for the support that I have from Chip Ganassi Racing, my teammates, team members, fantastic support from Carvana. We knew going oval racing would help, and today got us in a competitive mix. When I was racing with [Dixon] at the end, I thought that was pretty cool and pretty fun. We had a little trouble with our telemetry and didn’t know how much fuel I had saved, so I had to really go into conserve mode at the end and couldn’t fight for that top five, but what a special day. Just very thankful.”
Teammate Palou finished seventh while Pagenaud, Ferrucci and VeeKay completed the top 10.
With his runner-up result, Scott McLaughlin continues to lead the points standings by 28 points over teammate Will Power, 30 over Alex Palou, 32 over teammate Josef Newgarden, 39 over Marcus Ericsson and 42 over Scott Dixon.
1. Josef Newgarden, three laps led
2. Scott McLaughlin, 186 laps led
3. Marcus Ericsson, 10 laps led
4. Will Power, 20 laps led
5. Scott Dixon
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Alex Palou
8. Simon Pagenaud
9. Santino Ferrucci
10. Rinus VeeKay, five laps led
11. David Malukas, three laps led
12. Colton Herta, one lap down
13. Ed Carpenter, one lap down
14. JR Hildebrand, one lap down
15. Pato O’Ward, one lap down
16. Callum Ilott, one lap down
17. Dalton Kellett, two laps down
18. Conor Daly, three laps down
19. Christian Lundgaard – OUT, Accident
20. Takuma Sato – OUT, Accident
21. Felix Rosenqvist – OUT, Halfshaft
22. Graham Rahal – OUT, Accident
23. Helio Castroneves – OUT, Accident
24. Devlin DeFrancesco – OUT, Accident
25. Kyle Kirkwood – OUT, Accident
26. Romain Grosjean – OUT, Engine
27. Alexander Rossi – OUT, Battery
Next on the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series schedule is the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach at the Streets of Long Beach, California, which will occur on April 10 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.