Josef Newgarden made a dramatic push through the final corner on the last lap to edge Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin for the victory in Sunday’s XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.
McLaughlin led a race-high 186 of 248 laps, but navigating late-race traffic played a role as it allowed Newgarden to reel in his Team Penske teammate to take the win by a narrow 0.0669s at the 1.5-mile oval.
“It was a race of patience, for sure, for us at least,” said Newgarden. “We tried to manage all the way throughout. We had a lot of adversities to work through. We had a right front that was coming apart on the first stint. We got through that. It actually worked out pretty well. We cycled up to second. Scott was way up the road, started closing the gap. Obviously had the big yellow in the middle.
“Kind of the final restart, I just got my doors blown off by everybody. There was a ton of fuel to save at that point. Seemed like no one was worried about doing that right away. I must have went back to sixth or seventh. Kind of methodically got back forward.
“At the end I was like Scott is going to be hard to beat with traffic. He’s been strong this whole time. He was strong last year, strong at the test. I thought if we just had clear running, we would have a great fight. We probably would have been dicing back and forth the entire time.
“It gets so difficult when you have cars that are about to go a lap down, fighting each other. Scott is trying to manage that. Hurts me to be able to close up on end.
“At the end, I literally conceded with two laps to go. It’s just not going to happen. I literally almost lost it off four pushing hard to go ahead close. He did a good job. He was in position. He’s in position, he’s going to win this rails, bring it home.
“… I could have kept that mindset. But that mindset changed as soon as I got to corner three. The traffic just presented a great opportunity to really, I don’t want to say the words, but get after it, try to do something to win this race.
“I went high side. If I hit the fence, I hit the fence. Scott is still the winner, it will be a great day for the team. I was so pumped. I’ve never been so excited. I got on the radio like in the middle of (Turns) 3-4, I was like, ‘No way.'”
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A methodical day by Marcus Ericsson propelled him to a third-place finish to lead the four-car stable for Chip Ganassi Racing. Will Power ended up fourth, with Scott Dixon fifth.
It was a remarkable sixth-place result for Jimmie Johnson, who was making his oval debut in an Indy car. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion dodged multiple wrecks in the No. 48 CGR Honda and was a consistent mover throughout the last half of the race, coming out on top of on-track battles with Simon Pagenaud, among others.
Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou finished seventh, followed by Pagenaud.
Santino Ferrucci, who came in as a substitute after Jack Harvey was ruled out this morning after a reevaluation from a heavy crash in final practice on Saturday, finished ninth. Ferrucci started last in the No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda and, like Johnson, survived attrition by getting through multiple crashes to lead the charge for the team.
Rinus VeeKay rounded out the bottom of the top 10 after a day where he made the high line work early and often and was a constant mover throughout.
Overall, the race witnessed a blend of high tire degradation and and strategy, along with a strong head wind going into Turn 1. Those combinations led to an action-packed race that also featured multiple wrecks. The most significant came after a Lap 129 restart where Devlin DeFrancesco dove under Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves into Turn 3, which resulted in all three crashing out of the race.
Pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist suffered a mechanical failure and retired after 138 laps. It was also a rough outing for his Arrow McLaren SP teammate and last year’s TMS race winner Pato O’Ward, who saw his early push towards the front halted after hitting his left-front tire changer and received a penalty to restart at the rear of the field. He ended up finishing 15th.
Other notables included Alexander Rossi, was the first retirement of the race after a battery issue after 11 laps.