The finish to Sunday’s NTT IndyCar XPEL 375 proved to be spectacular finish to a spectacular race, which has proven to be something of a rarity in recent memory at Texas Motor Speedway. The facility, which has hosted races in both NASCAR and IndyCar since 1997, has been through something of a slump in recent years since it’s 2017 repave.
Naysayers were quick to say that the race was a flop due to the dominance of runner-up Scott McLaughlin, who started second and led 186 of the 248 laps before Josef Newgarden chased him down for the win. But that’s not counting the race’s 15 lead changes among 12 drivers, or the four cautions for 52 laps.
The quality of racing could be attributed to the special practice session IndyCar and Firestone put together to lay down some rubber in the race’s second groove, as the PJ1-stained track surface could lose grip over time. As a result, with a second groove rubbered in there was plenty of racing and action throughout the race through all parts of the field.
As a result, the racing on Sunday made a strong case to keep Texas Motor Speedway on the IndyCar schedule. That’s a big statement considering how it’s now common knowledge that the speedway is among the least popular destinations on the circuit. Online pundits even asked if the lack of promotional efforts for the XPEL 375 were because of the perceived lack of popularity.
All said, Texas has been around long enough that it has achieved historical status in American motorsport. Where else would the racing world have gleefully watched AJ Foyt launch Arie Luyendyk into a bed of rose bushes? Where else would we have had the pleasure of watching Justin Wilson win his last race while driving for Dale Coyne? What about 2016, where the most exciting race in recent memory ended with James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal in a nose-to-nose photo finish with Rahal coming out on top?
It isn’t the track’s fault racing has been lackluster; all speedways go through periods where the racing isn’t that great. Texas is a great facility with a great layout. It was a given it would take time for the racing product to come in after the repave, and on Sunday that’s exactly what happened.