Racing under the lights

There’s always something special about it, when the Verizon IndyCar Series races at the Texas Motor Speedway.

The ninth round of the season was run on 1,5 mile oval, with the race starting before sunset, making the 22 participants race into the darkness, only lit up by the flood light around the track. The race was the first oval race since the Indy 500, but this was a very different kind of oval with very high banking.

248 laps were to be run, and Josef Newgarden was starting out from Pole Position ahead of Simon Pagenaud and Will Power – three Penske cars in the first three places. Robert Wickens took P4 ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, and Scott Dixon.

While the start went reasonable calm at the front, Alexander Rossi made a blinding start and was already P5 after the first few laps.

It did however only last five laps before the first FCY of the day had to be called, due to A. J. Foyt #4 car of Matheus Leist bursting into flames. Luckily he made it out of the car under his own steam, while the fire fighters were very slow at arriving on the scene. But they did manage to put out the fire.

Photo: / Chris Owens

After just 27 laps of racing, the other A. J. Foyt car with Tony Kanaan also had to retire, when Kanaan scraped the wall and broke his rear suspension. He did however drive the car back to the pits, so we avoided a caution period.

There was a bit of panic emerging after 48 laps of the race, when the field had to outlap Max Chilton. There was a big queue behind him, where Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe didn’t have an easy time passing him. At one point they went three wide, which was very exciting on the very narrow track. Luckily everybody made it without a collision.

The first regular pitstops of the day was done at around Lap 60, where Simon Pagenaud managed to sneak into the lead, ahead of Josef Newgarden and Will Power, while Robert Wickens and Scott Dixon closed out top 5. It did become clear that the Honda cars had a much better fuel economy than the Chevrolet, which made drivers like Robert Wickens, Scott Dixon, Ed Jones and Graham Rahal able to go much further.

After the pitstop round, the Team Penske drivers started fuel saving, which made Wickens overtake them one by one.

Photo: / Chris Owens

Zach Veach had to pit after 96 laps, when he scraped the wall on the exact same point as Kanaan, which also broke his rear suspension.

Robert Wickens took the lead after 96 laps of the race.

Josef Newgarden had to pit due to a slow puncture, which put him out on an alternative strategy.

Meanwhile, Scott Dixon overtook Championship rival Will Power on track, as if Power was standing still.

Several of the drivers started to problems with the tires, which started to blister and lose grip. The Team Penske cars had serious issues with their tires, but some other teams also had issues.

Pagenaud caught the eyes of the stewards, when he started blocking a bit too much on track. When Scott Dixon finally made it past him, then Alexander Rossi quickly went past too, like Pagenaud had pulled his handbrake in the middle of the straight.

Marco Andretti had issues at his second pitstop, where the car stalled and the team wasn’t able to re-fire it.

Scott Dixon took the lead halfway through the race, while Robert Wickens had dropped into second ahead of Alexander Rossi.

Wickens got stuck behind Max Chilton, which Rossi took full advantage of and overtook him. A few laps later, Wickens brushed the wall, but he was able to continue without damage.

Scott Dixon & Simon Pagenaud
Photo: / Chris Owens

Robert Wickens and Ed Carpenter crashed on Lap 173, when the former should put Carpenter a lap down. Wickens took a bit of a late dive, and both ended up hard in the wall. Luckily both drivers were fine, while the rear ends of their cars was well damaged. Carpenter apologized to Wickers right after, realizing that he had closed the door a bit too late, and that he shouldn’t had done it anyway, when it was an overlapping.

That gave the only second FCY of the day, which made almost everybody pit to get new tires.

Andretti Autosport had problems to get fuel into Rossi’s car, so the refueler had to try over and over again, before it finally started to refuel. Luckily there were only six cars on the lead lap, so he only lost three positions.

There were a lot of aggressive moves made on the restart. Simon Pagenaud dived past James Hinchcliffe, while Alexander Rossi also tried to overtake. He had to back out of it, to not end up in the wall.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was also moving forward, when he passed Hinchcliffe. One lap later Rossi tried to get past the Canadian too, but had drop back. Not only once but twice, before third time lucky. And on that third try, he actually got such a sling shot, that he overtook teammate Hunter-Reay in the same go.

Charlie Kimball
Photo: / Chris Jones

While all that happened, Scott Dixon was cruising nice and easy out front, with four seconds gap ahead of Pagenaud, who had just as big of a gap to Alexander Rossi.

Zachary Claman De Melo had impressed all day long, but after 204 laps he collided with Indy 500 winner Will Power, when the former tried to overtake Power. Power explained afterwards that he had been on the radio to the pits on that exact point, so he couldn’t hear the message from his spotter, that there was a car on the outside, and that was why he pulled into him.

All the leading cars used that FCY to pit one final time, for new tires and a tank full of ethanol.

The race was restarted with 34 laps to go with Scott Dixon leading Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Josef Newgarden got a drive-through penalty when he hadn’t acted correctly during the restart of the race. So that made an already bad day at the office for the defending Champion even worse, putting him outside the top 10.

While Dixon had it easy out in front, and just wanted to laps to tick down as fast as possible, Rossi was constantly attacking Pagenaud, who wouldn’t give up that position without a fight.

The three did however stay put until the chequered flag, with James Hinchcliffe in P4 ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Scott Dixon
Photo: / Chris Jones

With the results today, Scott Dixon is leading the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, ahead of Alexander Rossi and Will Power, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden slowly losing the contact to top 3.

Robert Wickens still leads the Rookie Championship, ahead of Zach Veach and Matheus Leist.

The next round will be run on 24 June at Road America, which is the track that most of the Indycar drivers prefer the most, with fast turns, and not much run-off areas, before a concrete wall greets the car.

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