Today’s question: Who will win the PPG 375 this Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway (noon, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network)?
Curt Cavin: I was happy for Scott McLaughlin when he won last year’s season-opening street race in St. Petersburg in grand style and when he went on to win on the Mid-Ohio and Portland road courses later in the year. But the race I wanted him to win was Texas, an oval trophy that Josef Newgarden swiped from him coming out of the last corner of the 248-lap race. McLaughlin led 186 laps that day – Newgarden led only three laps -- and was so deserving of his first oval-track victory, a win no one would have seen coming as he transitioned from Australia’s Supercars Championship to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Despite the heartbreak, McLaughlin handled that defeat like the pro he is, and for that he’s my sentimental pick for this weekend. Funny thing is, he should be considered the betting favorite, too.
Joey Barnes: There are a healthy handful of favorites to choose from when it comes to potential winners, like McLaughlin, as Curt referenced, along with two-time and defending race winner Newgarden. However, I’ll go a different route and look at Scott Dixon, who has five wins at the 1.5-mile superspeedway, with four of those coming in the last nine races. In fact, since the reconfiguration in 2017, which spans seven races, he only has two finishes worse than fifth, with the only real sour note being the 2019 when he finished 19th after colliding with Colton Herta while battling for second with less than 20 laps to go. Like many places we go to on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule, ‘The Iceman’ has the Lone Star State pretty well figured out.
Paul Kelly: Pato O’Ward will earn redemption for his heartbreaking loss in the season opener at St. Petersburg with his second victory in three years at his adopted home track, Texas Motor Speedway. Arrow McLaren looked switched on at St. Pete, with O’Ward hanging on from his late plenum incident to finish second, and Alexander Rossi placing fourth in his debut with the team. O’Ward also has a score to settle at TMS after last season, when he started 10th and finished 15th with no laps led in a largely anonymous performance. Pato never likes to fade quietly into the pack or anywhere, so I think he’ll roar back to win. Not only will a win be a proper rebound from St. Petersburg on Final Four weekend, a runner-up finish and victory in the first two races of the season will firmly mark O’Ward as a contender to do the NTT INDYCAR SERIES version of cutting down the nets in triumph in March Madness – hoisting the Astor Challenge Cup as season champion this September.