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Pato O’Ward wins XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Pato O’Ward. Photo by Chris Owens

 

By Mike Haag, Raceday San Antonio

FORT WORTH, Texas – Patricio “Pato” O’Ward scored his first NTT INDYCAR Series victory Saturday night at the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 21-year old Mexican driver, who once lived and went to school in San Antonio, passed Josef Newgarden’s No. 2 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet with 24 laps to go and then hung on to defeat him by a margin of 1.2443 seconds at the 1.5 mile oval.

Pato O’Ward. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

“Finally!” O’Ward said. “That was long race, but we had so much pace in the Arrow McLaren SP No. 5. We got the job done today, man. I couldn’t be happier for a group of guys. It’s Texas. It’s very close to my heart. Many Mexicans were out there in the grandstands, so thank you guys so much.”

O’Ward becomes the first Mexican driver to win an IndyCar Series race since Adrian Fernandez did in 2004 on the two mile oval at Auto Club Speedway in California. In addition, he is the youngest INDYCAR driver to win at TMS at the age of 21. The previous youngest winner was Sam Hornish Jr. who was 22.

“We got the first win out of the way,” O’Ward said. “Let’s focus on the rest of the championship. I get my Formula 1 test at the end of the year. We feel like we have a good shot at the championship. I love IndyCar racing.”

Pato O’Ward. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

Graham Rahal, driving the No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda, finished third.  Six-time NTT INDYCAR Series champion Scott Dixon, who won his fifth race at Texas at Saturday’s Genesys 300, finished fourth and Colton Herta was fifth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

A chaotic start resulted in a six-car crash when the green flag was waved on the front straightaway. A multi-car accident occurred and Connor Daly ended upside down and he skidded down the tri oval.  Sebastian Bourdais, Alexander Rossi, Pietro Fittipaldi, Ed Jones and Dalton Kellett were also collected in the melee.

Scott Dixon. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

When the race restarted on Lap 19 Dixon jumped out to the lead in his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and appeared as if he would run away with the race similar to how he did on Saturday.  Where there were only three lead changes at the Genesys 300, Sunday’s race ended up having 12 lead changes among nine drivers. Dixon ended with a race-high 163 laps.

“Huge congrats to Pato,” Dixon said. “I was watching from back a few spots there, and what he did there at the end was a tremendous drive, especially against one of the best guys in the field. Hopefully he calms down a little bit and doesn’t make it too often.”

Will Power leads Lap 187 at the XPEL 375 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

With 63 laps to go until the finish O’Ward, Will Power, Newgarden and Takuma Sato swapped the lead through Lap 201.  Newgarden led from Laps 202 to 224. O’Ward took over the lead on Lap 225 and led to the finish.

Rounding out the top ten was Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Rinus VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay,

Dixon leaves Texas with the series points lead while O’Ward jumps to second and is 22 points back as they prepare next for the May races at Indianapolis. The GMR Grand Prix is scheduled for Saturday, May 15 on the IMS road course and the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is set for Sunday, May 30.

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.