May 13, 2021

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McLaughlin makes podium in IndyCar oval debut

4 min read
Scott McLaughlin finished second in his IndyCar oval circuit debut as Scott Dixon had another...

Scott McLaughlin finished second in his IndyCar oval circuit debut as Scott Dixon had another dominating victory at Texas, winning in the first of two races on consecutive days at the IndyCar Series' first oval track this season.

Dixon passed Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and polesitter Alex Palou at the start of the third lap and went on to lead 206 of 212 laps for his 51st career victory, his fifth at the high-banked, 2.4km Texas Motor Speedway.

The 40-year-old New Zealander finished .2646 seconds ahead of fellow countryman McLaughlin, a 27-year-old IndyCar rookie in his first oval race.

"Who doesn't love Texas. I love this place," Dixon said. "I was looking down, and looking in the mirror. He was fast."

McLaughlin said post-race: "I've never been this bloody happy with second, I'll give you the tip.

"I'm really stoked for everyone at PPG and Chevy. Just couldn't quite get Scotty at the end there but I tell you what, it was bloody cool battling with one of my all-time favourite heroes; he is my hero, Scotty Dixon. Two Kiwis one and two is fantastic."

Dixon moved with one of matching Mario Andretti's 52 victories for the second-most on the career list that A.J. Foyt tops with 67. Dixon has now won a race in 19 different seasons, breaking a tie with Foyt for the most. Dixon last year won his sixth season title, one short of Foyt's record seven.

"I never dreamed of that. I feel so lucky and so privileged to do what I get to do," he said.

Pato O'Ward finished third, with Palou fourth ahead of Graham Rahal and Josef Newgaden. There have been three different winners in three IndyCar races this season.

Dixon is the first driver to win consecutive IndyCar races at Texas, which has now hosted 33 races — the 34th comes Sunday — in the track's 25 seasons of races. He won last June in what was the opener in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.

IndyCar moved up the start of the race 35 minutes because of the increasing threat of rain deeper into the evening. Qualifying was canceled earlier in the day because of overnight rain and morning mist that created a damp track that took a long time to dry before a single practice.

The series opened May by racing for the third consecutive weekend, with a planned 690 miles in Texas in two races on consecutive days. The race scheduled late Sunday afternoon is set for 248 laps (372 miles), when there should be no weather issues.

The last time an IndyCar race had been run outside of Indianapolis in May was at Sao Paulo in Brazil in 2013. The only other times were 2010 at Kansas and 2012 in Brazil.

BOURDAIS BUMPED OUT

Sebastien Bourdais was done on lap 56 when the No. 14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt checked up for a slowing Colton Herta in front of him coming out of Turn 2 and was hit from behind by Joseph Newgarden.

"Very strange, like his car just fell off the cliff," Bourdais said of Herta in front of him. "That set up a chain reaction that we got the short end of."

Bourdais, who was running sixth at the time, spun and the car backed hard into the outside wall.

Newgarden was penalized for unavoidable contact and sent to the back of the field on the restart, though did recover to finish sixth.

HINCH'S HARD CONTACT

James Hinchcliffe got loose and crashed hard into the wall on lap 159, ending the night for No. 29 Honda for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport with sponsor Genesys, the race's title sponsor.

Hinchliffe said he had been struggling with a vibration and was trying to stay on the lead when the air got taken off his car when Felix Rosenqvist came down on a pass.

AFTER/BEFORE THE 500

Texas was the first race after the Indianapolis 500 from the initial Lone Star State event in 1997 through 2005, and was after Indy every time until last year.

Until this weekend, every TMS race was run in June, though the 2016 race got started in June before getting red-flagged because of rain and not being completed until late August.

During the pandemic last year, Texas was the season opener when run in its normal June slot. That was 2 1/2 months before the Indianapolis 500, which is back in its traditional Memorial Day weekend slot this year.

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