Earlier this week, NTT, a telecommunications company based in Japan, renewed their title sponsorship of the Indycar series for three more years, weeks after the season kicked off on March 5, with a thrilling Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which saw 2022 Indianapolis 500 champ, Marcus Ericsson, leave with the trophy.
Now, just under a month later, the stars and cars of IndyCar roll into Fort Worth, Texas, for the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The green flag flies at 12:15 on NBC, with other viewing and listening options on Peacock and IndyCar Radio. Live timing and scoring can be found on the IndyCar app and website.
Last year’s race saw a thrilling finish, with Josef Newgarden edging out Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin by 0.0669 seconds, on a last-lap drag race to the line. With tempers and emotions running high from St. Pete, there are plenty of storylines to look for this weekend.
Texas Motor Speedway itself will play a fact in Sunday’s race. The 1.5 mile oval has 20 degrees of banking in turns one and two and 24 degrees in turns three and four. The corners are also 80 feet wide. With the wider turns and the addition of PJ1, a compound that helps a car's traction on a racing surface and was put down to help improve the racing when NASCAR raced at the trac. Texas has become relegated to a one-groove racetrack, with cars clinging to the bottom lane of the track. When IndyCars run in the PJ1, they are prone to getting loose, losing grip, and spinning out.
IndyCar plans to conduct an “Upper Lane Practice”, where drivers can practice running the high lane where the traction compound is.
The three full-time rookies of the NTT IndyCar Series, Sting Ray Robb, Benjamin Pedersen, and Agustín Canapino will take to the fast oval for the first time on Sunday. All three drivers drove in a test two weeks ago to get acclimated to racing on an oval. Robb and Pedersen experienced oval racing in the Indy NXT series (formerly Indy Lights), the development series below IndyCar, when racing at Iowa Speedway and Worldwide Technology Raceway in 2022. Both drivers have never driven at a superspeedway before, experiencing speeds exceeding 200 mph.
“That was the first time I’ve had my breath taken away by the speed of a car I was driving,” Robb told Curt Cavin of IndyCar.com
Canapino hails from Argentina and comes from a road racing background. The Juncos Hollinger driver finished 12th in St. Pete and now looks to take on an oval for the first time.
“The G-forces at those speeds are a very strong feeling, honestly, and nothing is similar to that,” Canapino told Cavin. “I never felt anything similar to that.”
Two drivers are making their season debut this Sunday. Takuma Sato returns to the series for the first time this season. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner is set to drive in the oval races for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 11-car. The fourth Ganassi car, previously driven by Jimmie Johnson, is now shared between Sato and rookie Marcus Armstrong, who will drive on the road and street courses.
Ed Carpenter makes his first start of the season in the 33 BITNILE car. Carpenter begins his ninth season running just ovals and is a previous winner at Texas in 2014, his last win to date.
Six out of the last seven Texas races have been won by a Penske or Ganassi driver. Scott Dixon leads all active drives with five wins at the track. Dixon has provided three wins in that seven race span for Ganassi in 2018, 2020, and 2021. Helio Castroneves has four wins in Fort Worth, just one shy of Dixon. Castroneves’ last win at Texas came in 2013. Newgarden and Penske teammate Will Power have two wins each.