Round three of the NTT IndyCar Series 2021 was run as an afternoon/evening race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Saturday was time for the first of the two races this weekend, and it was affected a little by rain in the morning. That resulted in the practice session being push back, resulting in the Qualifying session being cancelled. The starting order would be decided by the championship order ahead of the race: Alex Palou on pole, ahead of Will Power, Scott Dixon, Colton Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Jack Harvey, Sebastien Bourdais, Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson, and Josef Newgarden on P10.
There was a total of 24 cars entered, with Tony Kanaan replacing Jimmie Johnson in #48, and Pietro Fittipaldi replacing Romain Grosjean in #51. Ed Carpenter was back in his own #20 instead of Conor Daly, with the team owner always doing the oval races himself. Daly had jumped into the Carlin racer, that he occupies at the ovals instead of Max Chilton.
The start went well, and Dixon managed to grab second place right away at the start, following his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou. On Lap 3, he took the lead of the race.
Jack Harvey had made it into 5th, by overtaking Simon Pagenaud.
Felix Rosenqvist had an exciting moment on Lap 14, where he almost came up too high, having to back off the throttle, and losing a few positions.
Tony Kanaan had a slightly wrong gearing, so he was hitting the rev limiter on the front straight. On top of that, he had some gearbox issues, so he had problems with downshifts.
The First Full Course Caution of the day came on Lap 56, when Sebastien Bourdais hit the wall, after a small nudge from Josef Newgarden. The pair was in traffic, having to lift a bit, and Newgarden didn’t slow down fast enough, so his nose touched the gearbox of Bourdais, flicking the Frenchman into a spin, backing it hard into the wall. Bourdais was thankfully OK, but very annoyed that he was out of the race, after running in a good 7th for the local team A. J. Foyt Enterprises.
The Andretti Autosport mechanics had a few issues getting left rear fitted on James Hinchcliffe’s car, which cost him a few extra seconds in the pit.
The stewards decided to send Newgarden to the back of the field, as a penalty for the Bourdais contact.
Will Power had lost many positions, since he pitted right before the FCY came out. Tony Kanaan on the other hand, was all the way up to 7th, since he had waiting pitting until the FCY period.
Dixon quickly ran away once again, when the race went back to green. Palou was under pressure from Herta, but managed to fend him off.
Alexander Rossi was one of the big winners of the pitstop round, running in 5th in the race, after having started all the way back in 16th, which was his Championship position ahead of today’s race.
But Rossi lost positions again during the second pitstop round, when his front right mechanic had issues getting the new wheel fitted properly.
Felix Rosenqvist was all the way up to second in the race, ahead of Scott McLaughlin and Alex Palou.
The race went yellow again after 160 laps, when James Hinchcliffe lost the car around Turn 2, and hit the wall sideways, since he couldn’t catch the race, when sliding into the PJ1 traction compound, used for the NASCAR races. It works for NASCAR, but the Firestone tires in Indycar don’t like it. That basically made the track a one-groove only, making overtakes nearly impossible.
The majority of the teams pitted during the FCY period, so they could run to the flag without having to refuel again.
Marcus Ericsson lost a lot of positions, when his mechanics had so big troubles getting the right rear fitted, so the Swede actually left the pit on three tires only. He got the car stopped on pitlane, but it cost him a lot of positions, but at least he was back in the race. Felix Rosenqvist lost a bunch of positions too, when he had to avoid his stranded countryman, in the middle of the pitlane.
The race was restarted with 38 laps to go, with Dixon leading Scott McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward. Harvey lost two positions to Newgarden and Graham Rahal, after running in top-5 for the whole of the race. A tendency that we have seen before by the Meyer Shank Racing driver – good start to the race and then fading. He wasn’t too popular in the field, when he blocked both Alexander Rossi, having to put two wheels on the grass to avoid a collision, and then blocking Graham Rahal on the back straight too.
Last week’s winner, Colton Herta, had to pit with 22 laps to go, when the American had some right rear brake troubles, with it starting to bind, and actually caused a brake fire. So he was out of the race.
Scott Dixon won the race in dominating fashion, ahead of Scott McLaughlin, Patricio O’Ward, Alex Palou, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, and Simon Pagenaud. This was the first podium position for McLaughlin, in his first 4th Indycar race, and his very first oval.
Scott Dixon also took the lead of the Championship, ahead of Alex Palou, Will Power, Pato O’Ward, Jack Harvey, and Josef Newgarden.
The second NTT IndyCar Series race of the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway will run on Sunday afternoon local time.