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NTT IndyCar Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for doubleheader

by Mike Haag | Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2021

By Mike Haag, Raceday San Antonio

FORT WORTH, Texas – The 25th anniversary racing season at Texas Motor Speedway kicks off this weekend with the NTT INDYCAR Series returning to the 1.5-mile oval for the Genesys 300 on Saturday and the XPEL 375 on Sunday.

Tony Kanaan during the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, June 6, 2020. Photo by Joe Skibinski

The event will be the first doubleheader held at Texas since 2011 and the 33rd and 34th races overall since Arie Luyendyk won the inaugural event in 1997.

The action begins Saturday at 3 p.m. with qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (Single car, two laps (Lap 1/Genesys 300; Lap 2/XPEL 375). The Genesys 300 race begins at 6:45 p.m. and will consist of 212 laps, 318 miles and will broadcast live on NBCSN.

Sunday’s XPEL 375 race begins at 4:15 p.m. and will consist of 248 laps, 372 miles and will broadcast live on NBCSN.

“I’m really excited,” said veteran driver and 2004 race winner Tony Kanaan.  “I think with the challenge this year with Chip Ganassi Racing, the responsibility of the No. 48, having Jimmie texting me to take care of his car the entire weekend, which I keep reminding him, it’s Chip’s car, but it’s his number, right. So I’m excited. I can’t wait.”

Scott Dixon during the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, June 6, 2020. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Kanaan joins four-time TMS race winner Scott Dixon as the only two drivers in the field that have started 21 races at TMS. Both are entered in the Genesys 300 and XPEL 375. Dixon is the defending race winner after winning the Genesys 300 last year after starting second and leading 157 of the 200 laps. His other wins came in 2008, 2015 and 2018.  Only Helio Castroneves, who is not in this field, has won four INDYCAR races at Texas.

“The key for Texas is to know when to attack and how to do it, so I think that’s something that some of those guys have not figured out yet, so hopefully Scott (Dixon) won’t have that much of an advantage so he will give it all to me, so yeah,” Kanaan said.

Scott McLaughlin — Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Twenty-one of the 24 NTT INDYCAR Series drivers that have entered this weekend have competed in past INDYCAR events at TMS. Twelve drivers have led laps at the track including Dixon 674, Will Power 432, Kanaan 372, James Hinchcliffe 196, Josef Newgarden 162, Ryan Hunter-Reay 136, Ed Carpenter 92, Simon Pagenaud 85, Takuma Sato 60, Graham Rahal 36, Alexander Rossi 10 and Marcus Ericsson 2.

Scott McLaughlin is the only rookie driver who has entered the races and he will make his first NTT INDYCAR Series start on an oval this weekend at Texas. Carpenter, Kanaan and Pietro Fittipaldi will make their 2021 season debut this weekend. Fittipaldi and Dalton Kellett join McLaughlin as first-time racers at Texas.

Scott McLaughlin — Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Photo by Chris Owens

McLaughlin enters the weekend ranked 15th in the point standings after competing on road courses in the first two NTT INDYCAR Series races this season at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama and the street-course race at St. Petersburg, Florida.

It’s exciting, nice to do a completely different discipline,” McLaughlin said.  “I think I’m more excited for the ovals than I am for the road courses because it’s so different to what I’ve done before. It’s so fast. Just nothing that’s quite as exhilarating as going 220 miles an hour with people wheel-to-wheel.”

Ed Carpenter during the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, June 6, 2020. Photo by Chris Owens

McLaughlin added, “That’s what’s so cool with INDYCAR racing, what’s so pure about it, what makes it so different to any really sport in the world, is we have a vast difference in tracks. We got a road, we got street courses, ovals, big fast oval, short ovals. It’s pretty cool and requires a whole different type of discipline which is what I’m really excited about for this weekend.”

Besides veterans Kanaan and Dixon, McLaughlin will face a stacked field of drivers including four other past winners Will Power (2011 Race 2 and 2017), Carpenter (2014), Rahal (2016) and Newgarden (2019).

Will Power during practice for the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, June 6, 2020. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Power has won the pole for three of the past eight TMS races (2013, 2014 and 2015). Other past pole winners entered this year are Dixon (2008), Newgarden (2018 and 2020) and Takuma Sato (2019). Kanaan started first on a draw at the doubleheader in 2011 but has never won a pole from a qualifying session at TMS.

Alex Palou enters the weekend with a two-point lead over Power and Dixon in the championship standings. Colton Herta and Simon Pagenaud round out the top five. Palou won the season opener at Barber and Herta is fresh off a victory last weekend at St. Petersburg.

To see the entry list of other notable drivers that will be competing in both races this weekend at TMS, click here.

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 33 years. In addition to covering motorsports for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 16 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike taught high school English and Journalism for 30 years before retiring in May, 2020.