Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Morgan Holiday
It has been three weeks since Scott McLaughlin’s stunning victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which started off the 2022 IndyCar Series with a bang. Texas Motor Speedway will be hosting the next round of the championship, as drivers prepare for the first oval race of the season. Texas drops to just hosting a singular race, after hosting the XPEL 375 and the Genesys 300 in a double-header weekend last year.
Texas will host one of five oval events in 2022, and is the only one before the iconic Indianapolis 500. Tatiana Calderon’s decisions to not partake in ovals in 2022 means that J.R. Hildebrand will be racing the #11 A.J Foyt at all oval events this season, starting off with Texas this weekend. We will also unsurprisingly be seeing Ed Carpenter for all oval events this year after he announced that he will enter the #33 car this year, instead of alternating with Conor Daly, as was the case last season.
The XPEL 375 will also be the first ever oval race for Callum Ilott and Christian Lundgaard, after both have only raced on road and street courses so far in their career across the pond. David Malukas, Kyle Kirkwood, and Devlin DeFrancesco have all experienced oval racing in Indy Lights, but Texas will all be their first foray in a superspeedway, as they prepare for their first oval race in IndyCar. Jimmie Johnson will also have a highly anticipated IndyCar oval debut, after he spent 20 years on them in the NASCAR Cup Series but decided to not attempt them in 2021.
Romain Grosjean will also have his first race at the speedway, after the only oval race he competed in last year was at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Due to St. Petersburg hosting the first round, McLaughlin is leading the championship, ahead of Palou, Power, Herta and Grosjean. Herta and Palou, seen as some of the top drivers in IndyCar, will be pursuing their first oval win this weekend. This comes just days after Herta was announced as a testing and development driver for McLaren’s Formula 1 Team, similarly to Pato O’Ward, who was the star at the speedway last year, picking up third and a debut race victory at this event. This gave him a McLaren F1 test drive that he completed in Abu Dhabi.
O’Ward picked up the most points of any driver on ovals in 2021, and will definitely be seen as a major contender heading into this weekend. It will be a crucial weekend for the Mexican driver after an underwhelming 12th place finish on the Streets of St. Petersburg. Scott Dixon was also victorious in the Lone Star State in 2021, and won the event in 2020. The Kiwi also claimed pole for the second race last year, but incredibly has not won a race since, and will certainly be looking to turn that around this weekend. Josef Newgarden is also traditionally very strong here, and has not finished outside the top six since 2019, and will certainly be looking to improve on his disappointing performance this weekend.
The XPEL 375 takes place on Sunday, and with Texas looking likely to be dropped from the schedule in 2023, after its recent unpopularity with the PJ1 adhesive, it will hope to go out with a bang.