Newgarden denies O’Ward as Grosjean crash ends thrilling Texas 375


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Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward staged a head-to-head, wheel-to-wheel fight for victory in Sunday’s Texas 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.

In the end, Newgarden held on for the victory over O’Ward after Romain Grosjean crashed out of fifth place on the penultimate lap.

The win is Newgarden’s second in a row around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The track has been criticised in recent years for offering no happy medium between processional events and dangerous pack racing.

Thanks to a combination of factors – including special practice sessions to lay rubber on the outer groove of the corners, a range of aerodynamic parts that teams can install, and changeable conditions – the long-time IndyCar venue produced a pulsating race.

With the threat of severe weather in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the race start was brought forward by 15 minutes. Pole-winner Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon traded the lead early before Newgarden and O’Ward interjected themselves into the lead fight.

Takuma Sato’s 2023 season debut came to an abrupt end on lap 48. The Japanese driver, making his first start for Chip Ganassi Racing, washed out of the racing line to give Devlin DeFrancesco and Will Power room to his inside. He drifted into the marbles exiting turn two, spun and broadsided the inside retaining wall.

Since everyone was near the end of their first stint, the remaining 27 cars dived into pit lane for routine service. Alexander Rossi was running comfortably in the top five, but as he peeled out of his McLaren pit box, Kyle Kirkwood swerved into his and hit Rossi on the way in.

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Rossi suffered severe damage to the right-front suspension and lost six laps for repairs. Adding further insult to his wounds, Rossi was found to be at fault for an unsafe release and given a drive-through penalty – much to the 2016 Indy 500 winner’s disgust. Kirkwood fared little better afterwards, a right-rear suspension failure effectively ending his day.

At the second round of green flag pit stops, O’Ward came roaring into life. When the sun broke through the cloud covers, the number five McLaren Chevrolet turned into a rocket ship as O’Ward seized the lead, drove away and proceeded to all-but lap Newgarden at one stage.

The race took a sudden turn with 72 laps left. Rosenqvist lost control in the marbles out of turn four and crashed through the dogleg, ending what had been a promising run.

This incident, ironically, erased a six-second advantage Rosenqvist’s team mate O’Ward had over Newgarden. It also put six cars back on the lead lap. O’Ward and Newgarden pitted at their first call and maintained their positions. But while the field was still circulating under the Safety Car, Newgarden came in for a second time to top up his tank, while O’Ward stayed out to maintain track position.

The ensuing restart with 57 laps to go broke out into a mad scramble with all of the leaders trying to save fuel and maintain track position. The lead changed hands rapidly as Dixon, Grosjean, Alex Palou, Colton Herta and Scott McLaughlin rejoined the fray. This unbelievable scrap ended suddenly, when rookie Sting Ray Robb hit the wall out of turn two and skidded into a hard hit along the inside wall, causing another caution with 41 laps to go.

O’Ward tore his way from fifth to the lead on new tyres on the ensuing restart, having pitted along with Newgarden and McLaughlin to sacrifice track position for fresh rubber. But soon afterwards a terrifying crash in turn three took out Devlin DeFrancesco and Graham Rahal.

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DeFrancesco initially sustained damage after contact with the turn two wall. He dropped down to the apron in turns three and four, then drifted back up onto the racing line in front of Rahal. The RLL driver barely had time to brake before hitting the wayward car, and rose airborne momentarily before striking the barriers. Mercifully, both drivers were okay.

The final 10 laps saw O’Ward lead the field back to the line before Palou drove past him into turn three. Just a few laps later, Newgarden took the pair of them and clung to the lead, protecting the inside line as O’Ward tried everything to repass him on the high side.

Grosjean was on the fringes of the battle of the lead, scrapping with David Malukas, when he lost control in turbulent air on the penultimate lap. He spun out in turn two and slid down to the inside wall.

Newgarden was just ahead of O’Ward when the final caution flag was waved, and therefore secured his second consecutive win at Texas Motor Speedway. O’Ward’s consolation for his second consecutive runner-up finish was him assuming the IndyCar Series championship lead after two races.

The shared dominance of Newgarden and O’Ward was staggering – in today’s race, they combined to lead 214 of the 250 laps run today.

Palou would round out the podium in third, and David Malukas, who had a window of opportunity to take his maiden IndyCar win, still came home with a strong fourth place finish. The Scotts, Dixon and McLaughlin, would finish fifth and sixth – a great recovery from McLaughlin after being mired in the midfield early on.

Colton Herta was seventh, and Marcus Ericsson finished eighth, one lap down. Ericsson dropped to second in the championship standings, seven points behind O’Ward. Helio Castroneves put a wretched qualifying effort behind him to finish ninth, and Callum Ilott rounded out the top ten.

Grosjean was credited with 14th place after his race-ending accident. Agustin Canapino was the highest-finishing rookie, in 12th, ahead of Benjamin Pedersen in 15th. Although the race saw several high-speed impacts, every driver involved in an incident was able to walk away without any serious injuries.

IndyCar returns in two weeks for the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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14 comments on “Newgarden denies O’Ward as Grosjean crash ends thrilling Texas 375”

  1. CD (@clipperdael)
    2nd April 2023, 20:29

    That was some intense racing in the last 50 laps. Would have loved to see O’Ward take the win after the clinic he put on in the middle of the race.

    1. @clipperdael O’Ward and Newgarden were definitely in a league of their own today. It’s always tricky to judge those late race lead changes, when it makes sense and when it’s better to hold back a bit, but I suppose at tracks like this even the slightest tap will mean an instant FCY so Newgarden played his cards right to be up there towards the end.

      The highlights video left it out for some reason, but there was nothing between them with just a few laps to go. Props to both of them for keeping it clean.

      1. CD (@clipperdael)
        3rd April 2023, 8:37

        Oh sure, I didn’t want to detract from Newgarden’s win at all with my comment – he was the only one able to at least sort of hang with O’Ward after all. Just thought Pato would have had this in the bag without the cautions and I thought it would have been nice for him to win this one after the bad luck in St. Pete.

        The puff of smoke when they made slight contact had me hold my breath! I was certain they’d crash.

  2. That was one of the best oval races in a while. The last part of the race they were running two wide, two deep, any four of them could’ve come out on top.
    I don’t think there were a 1000 spectators total scattered about, based on tv. Shame.

    1. Looked significantly better than that, and certainly better than last year. That said I’d be interested in seeing actual numbers.

  3. Told you about Agustin Canapino! We’re so proud of him! I can’t believe he didn’t bin it at some point. How could he stay so calm in his first ever oval race?

    1. @fer-no65 I must admit my expectations were low given his lack of experience but I’ve been impressed by him so far.

      1. @keithcollantine if the reports turn out to be true and Argentina lands a spot in the calendar, expect the grandstands to be absolutely packed!

        1. Paul Villanueva
          4th April 2023, 0:21

          I can not believe INDYCAR is missing the chance to be racing at Mexico, Argentina and Brazil already. Having Pato in his prime and Canapino as a shining rockie that would mean packed grandstands.

  4. A Grosjean crash? What a surprise. Guy shows time and again why he was such a mediocre talent. He can’t be fast and not crash all the time.

    1. He’s very fast, but his situational awareness can be a bit hit or miss.

      In this case, he’d had a couple of taps in the last dozen laps or so, and I’m not sure he wasn’t taken out by a mild contact– hard to see, but it looked awfully close.

      1. @ NickT – It looked like the slightest of touches, but at 200+mph on a corner…. well you saw what happened. Racing incident and certainly don’t think Grojean was at fault, nor is it any indicator of driving ability. I watched his first oval race at Gateway in person and he was making moves in a literal rocketship. This race looked like more of the same. That and milimetres can make the difference in Indycar on an oval between a pass and a crash because the speeds are way higher.

        1. I am not basing it on this one incident. He’s just proven time and again he can’t be fast AND consistent, which makes him pretty useless. He’s unlikely to ever win any important championship.

  5. What a race that was. One of the best in years. Shame for Pato but him and Newgarden were both flying and a class above the rest.

    It a shame the attendance wasn’t bigger but I saw on Twitter there was traffic problems and problems getting in. It did seem to fill up more as the race went on.

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