IndyCar: Scott Dixon wins season opener at Texas Motor Speedway

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With a national audience watching in prime time, Scott Dixon showed why he’s been the standard-bearer of the NTT IndyCar Series for so long.

The five-time series champion led 157 of 200 laps to win tonight’s season-opening Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, claiming his 47th career win and his fourth at TMS.

Dixon dominated much of the race, but Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist emerged to challenge him late. The two Dallara-Hondas seemed poised to duke it out, but after their final pit stops, they had to deal with lapped traffic.

RESULTS, STATS, POINTS: Click here for the full rundown at Texas

With 10 laps to go, Rosenqvist attempted an outside pass on the lapped car of James Hinchcliffe in Turn 2 but lost control and spun into the outside wall.

Scott Dixon correctly was identified as the winner of Saturday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway by track president Eddie Gossage (Tom Pennington/Getty Images).

That set up a three-lap sprint to the finish, but Dixon quickly pulled away to end any more drama. He took the checkered flag by 4.4 seconds over 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.

“We could check out; it was just kind of when we got to a few people we knew were going to be a little more challenging to pass,” Dixon told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “That definitely cropped up. Will [Power] was tough. I knew he was gonna be. He was trying to stay on the lead lap.

“A bunch of those guys were … But, all in all, that’s racing, man.

“Such strange times right now, and I just can’t thank the team enough, it’s such a team effort … huge thanks to everybody involved and bummed that the fans weren’t here. I wish everyone was here to celebrate.”

Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden battled through tire vibrations to finish third. Behind him, Zach Veach tied his career-best result in fourth, and oval specialist Ed Carpenter completed the top five.

GOOD NIGHT

  • Conor Daly made up 13 positions to finish sixth in the No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet. Daly will split the full season between Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing, where he’ll suit up for all road/street course races and the Indy 500.
  • While his fellow rookies suffered misfortune (see below), Oliver Askew quietly scored a ninth-place finish for Arrow McLaren SP. It’s a nice start to the big-league career for last year’s Indy Lights champion.
  • Zach Veach led the Andretti Autosport brigade, tying a career best with a fourth.
  • After falling a lap down because of a drive-through penalty for unapproved adjustments before the start, Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded for eighth, ending a long day in which his team scrambled to fix his No. 28 Dallara-Honda after he hit the wall in practice (and he still qualified fourth).
  • Tony Kanaan started his ‘Last Lap’ farewell season with a 10th-place showing for A.J. Foyt Racing. Kanaan sported his famous green/white/orange 7-Eleven scheme that he ran with for much of his career.

BAD NIGHT

  • Rinus VeeKay and Alex Palou’s IndyCar debuts were short-lived. The two rookies were eliminated in a crash on Lap 38, when VeeKay got too high up in Turn 2, spun on exit, and collected Palou. VeeKay’s car had already been repaired following a wreck earlier in afternoon practice.
  • An electrical problem before engines were fired and a drive-through penalty for unapproved adjustments dropped Alexander Rossi out of contention before the start. He made up a lap but still finished a lap down in 15th.
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s hopes also went south before the race began. Following Takuma Sato’s crash in qualifying, RLL couldn’t repair his car in time for the green flag. As for Graham Rahal, his car failed to start and needed its ECU to be reprogrammed; that and subsequent penalties forced him to scrap for a 17th-place finish.
  • Charlie Kimball’s otherwise solid debut for A.J. Foyt Racing ended with a backstretch crash on the last lap. He was credited with an 11th-place finish after running legitimately inside the Top 5 during the race’s middle stages.

The NTT IndyCar Series will return in a historic Fourth of July weekend doubleheader with NASCAR at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IndyCar and the NASCAR Xfinity Series will take on the IMS road course July 4, then the NASCAR Cup Series hits the legendary IMS oval July 5 – only on NBC. 

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.