Newgarden edges McLaughlin to win IndyCar race

FORT WORTH, Texas — Josef Newgarden used the nonexistent high line to pass Scott McLaughlin in the final turn at Texas Motor Speedway and steal the IndyCar race his teammate had dominated.

The Sunday win gave Team Penske back-to-back victories to open the season and 600 overall wins across all its platforms. Chevrolet has opened the season with consecutive wins for the first time since 2017.

McLaughlin, winner of last month’s season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, started second but snatched the lead from pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist on the opening lap. The New Zealander led 186 of the 248 laps and wasn’t challenged until Newgarden’s last-ditch charge.

The American stalked McLaughlin through traffic and tried his best to maintain his composure.

“I was fuming in the car because we had all this traffic and it wasn’t helping me,” Newgarden said. “And then right when I needed it to help me, literally last corner, last lap! I think Scott led 95% of the laps, I hate doing that to a teammate.”

The margin of victory was .669 seconds — the eighth-closest finish in 35 races at Texas.

Newgarden had to drive high into Texas’ second lane, which has been too slippery and mostly unusable because of the residual traction compound applied to assist NASCAR’s grip during its races. The PJ1 has been terrible for the Indy cars, which find it too slick and so drivers avoid the second lane out of fear the lack of grip will send their car straight into the wall.

It’s jeopardized the future of IndyCar at Texas, which has hosted the series since 1997 and its existing contract expired Sunday. The series used a special practice session on Saturday when seven drivers went on track and drove the top lane in an effort to scrub away some of the compound and widen the racing surface.

It had mixed results.

Some drivers did crash when they got up into the slippery gray line; Newgarden was not one of them. He fearlessly went up high and around McLaughlin for back-to-back Team Penske wins. Will Power was fourth to complete the banner day for Penske.

Marcus Ericsson led Honda and Chip Ganassi Racing with a third-place finish — his first podium on an oval — and was followed by his three teammates. Scott Dixon was fifth, Jimmie Johnson sixth and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou seventh.

It was the highest IndyCar finish for Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR champion and the all-time winningest driver at Texas with seven wins. Victory Lane is named after him, but Johnson last year opted not to run the ovals as an IndyCar rookie.

He’s added them to his schedule this year, debuted at a track he knows better than anyone, and delivered a strong performance that had his team celebrating over the radio. “Let’s go win the Indianapolis 500!” Johnson was told as he crossed the finish line.

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