Welcome back to the Lone Star State.
The NTT IndyCar Series embarks on the second leg of its Texas Two-Step at this weekend’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The first act came in March with the inaugural INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas, a race captured by Colton Herta, now crowned the youngest Indy car winner in history at 18 years, 359 days old. It’s been a rough stretch ever since for Herta, who hasn’t managed a top-10 finish since that win.
While the pilot of the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda is hoping a return to Texas restores respectable outcomes, much of the momentum coming into 1.5-mile superspeedway oval belongs to defending race winner Scott Dixon.
The five-time and reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion is fresh off winning the second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader on Sunday. And that may not even be the statistic that spawns the most fear in the rest of the competition.
Dixon also came to Texas last year on the heels of a Detroit win – that time in the first weekend race. The driver of the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda went on to lead 119 of 248 laps to score his third victory on the high banks of TMS, propelling him to the championship at season’s end.
However, if there’s a driver who could upset Dixon’s harmony, look no further than Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet is carrying the colors of DXC Technology for its home race and is familiar with running up front at Texas. He finished runner-up last year and third in 2017.
Perhaps the ultimate under-the-radar driver this weekend – but one to be on the lookout for – is Ed Carpenter. The owner/driver’s last series win came in thrilling Wild West fashion at Texas in 2014 – the first year Carpenter limited his driving to oval events so he could also focus on team ownership. Carpenter has five top-10 finishes at Texas and has led in three races for a total of 92 laps. Even though his results have been a mixed bag in recent years – including a second-place finish at last year’s Indy 500 – he can never be discounted on a big oval.
There are others who merit consideration, too, drivers who have won and/or run up front at Texas – including Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan. As wild as some of the Texas races have been over the years, predicting a winner this year borders on impossible.
Part of that unpredictability goes back to changes that the track has seen in recent years. TMS underwent a reconfiguration two years ago that included widening and slightly less banking in Turns 1 and 2. Then last year marked the first season of the universal aero kit era.
So this year provides the first chance at continuity for the first time in a few years. How that affects the competition this weekend, or if it points toward anyone having the upper hand for Saturday night’s race, is anyone’s guess.