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Texas Motor Speedway provides thrilling, momentous PPG 375 IndyCar Series race

by Michael Haag | Posted on Sunday, April 2nd, 2023

Josef Newgarden – PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway – By: Joe Skibinski


By Michael Haag

FORT WORTH, Texas — It may have taken a few years for it to come to fruition, but Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway will probably go down as one of the best NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in that venue in recent memory. 

From the drivers perspective, Sunday’s race was described as “beautiful chaos,” by fourth-place finisher David Malukasor, and as Pato O’Ward — who finished in second place — put it: “It was freaking awesome.” 

Josef Newgarden took his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet past O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for the lead on Lap 249 of 250 shortly before the race ended under a yellow. Newgarden couldn’t have passed O’Ward at a better time, as Romain Grosjean crashed in Turn 2, causing the final caution period of the race, thus ending it under the caution.

Josef Newgarden – PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway – By: Chris Owens

Despite what might be considered an anticlimactic finish, Sunday’s race at TMS’ 1.5-mile oval was nothing short of electric. Both O’Ward and third-place finisher Alex Palou thought part of what made the race so spectacular was a mix between the NTT INDYCAR SERIES bringing in a different aero package and the track having more grip than normal. 

“This year you could run (in) the second lane,” Palou said. “Last year it was like 1 ½ (lanes).”

“There was a legit second lane, for sure,” O’Ward followed up with. “It was a proper second lane.”

Along with the true second lane that the drivers felt they could capitalize on, there were several instances where the field went three-wide on the turns at TMS, which sparked more aggresiveness. 

Eight of the 28 total drivers in the field led for at least one lap on Sunday, with Newgarden leading the most at 123. O’Ward followed with 91, as the two of them went toe-to-toe for most of the afternoon. 

Newgarden credited the three-wide racing to what he called the “Jimmie Johnson effect.”

Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward – PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway – By: Chris Jones

“We were here last year (and) people were like, ‘This Jimmie guy, look at him, he can do it,’” Newgarden said. “I think Jimmie Johnson basically gave everybody confidence this weekend.”

In addition to the Johnson effect, Newgarden pointed to increased downforce and the fact that the track just had more grip to pass. 

“There’s a lot more load on the cars,” Newgarden said. “The entire last stint, I was flat the whole time, flat for the first half of the stint. It’s a big jump from last year. That’s definitely factor number one … . But the track was better. It was less dark in the area where the PJ1 had been applied. It didn’t seem as low-grip initially as times when we’ve been here in the past.

“Even when everyone tried the high line running, it wasn’t like you ventured up there just to start out and it’s really low grip. Pretty much immediately when we went up there, it was (decent) grip. I think that was much more inviting for people to have more downforce. We were able to more successfully apply rubber to it from our cars. I think all of that contributed and led to the type of racing that we had today.”

Josef Newgarden – PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway – By: Joe Skibinski

If there’s one thing Newgarden, who averaged 169.917 mph for his 26th career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory on Sunday, said he could fix, it’s that he believed there was a little bit too much downforce applied that bunched the cars up. But he thought it “was a good mix” in terms of how the NTT INDYCAR SERIES wants to create an exciting race along with letting there be a skill gap among the field. 

“I don’t like it super packed up,” Newgarden said. “But I think today was a very good mix between the two worlds, of not having a packed race, but also having a difference maker where there’s tire degradation and you have to work as a team to figure that puzzle out.”

All in all, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES guys put on a show. After the restart on Lap 193 following Felix Rosenqvist’s crash, there were 14 lead changes among five different drivers.

O’Ward and Newgarden swapped the lead five different times in the last eight laps ahead of Grosjean’s race-ending incident.

Newgarden jumped in front on Lap 242, while O’Ward reclaimed the lead spot just a lap later. Then it was right back to Newgarden, as he took the point of attack one trip later on Lap 244. In fitting fashion, though, O’Ward nosed back ahead on Lap 247.

Pato O’Ward – PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway – By: Joe Skibinski

Then, Newgarden finally got in front for the penultimate Lap 249, which ended up being all he needed for the win, as the yellow flag flew for the last time. In total, Sunday’s race amassed 26 lead changes among eight different drivers.

“Hats off to everybody,” O’Ward said. “It’s pretty insane, I have to say. I don’t know how it looks. It must look cool, I’m assuming. It looks insane. But inside of the car, you’re going in, you see two guys there, then you’re just like keep it in. It’s commitment.”

NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans will have to wait another year for these fellas to come back, but reserve your ticket, now. You won’t want to miss out on a show like Sunday’s if you couldn’t make it out this year.

“It was fun, I have to say,” O’Ward said. “Like, it’s got to be the best Texas race in the last four, five years. It was freaking awesome.”

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is the next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, which is slated for 2 p.m. CT on Sunday on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network. The green flag will wave on April 16 in Long Beach, Calif.

About the Author

Michael Haag is a Journalism student at Baylor University in Waco, TX. He is also Sports Editor for the school's student newspaper, the Baylor Lariat. He has covered the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl and multiple Texas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the site in Waco. Michael has covered Baylor football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and more for the Baylor Lariat. He plans to finish in the spring of 2025 with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism.