IndyCar: What Sunday’s PPG 375 means for the Indy 500

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The PPG 375 was the first oval race of the IndyCar season and the only one before the Indy 500. There is plenty to learn from what was a great oval debut. 

The biggest takeaway from the weekend was how comfortable the drivers were driving side by side. All the passing and aggression at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday proved IndyCar‘s decision to hold a high-line practice on Saturday was well worth it.

At the first green flag pit cycle, the top five featured a lot of familiar faces: Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward, Romain Grosjean, Scott Dixon, and Alex Palou. The action at the front and the jockeying for position was reminiscent of last year’s Indy 500, especially with Dixon and Palou.

Grosjean was the odd man out of that crew. The Frenchman seems to be more comfortable with the ovals this year, as he wasn’t holding back at all. Consistently running in the top five and fighting for position all day will be big for his oval confidence.

O’Ward was in a league of his own early on, as he was lapping drivers at an alarming rate. By the time the next pit window began, he and Newgarden were the only two drivers left on the lead lap.

A yellow flag brought on by Felix Rosenqvist hitting the wall was the last thing his Arrow McLaren teammate needed. Everyone was brought back together, with additional drivers brought back on the lead lap, for the closing stages of the race.

Andretti teammates Grosjean and Colton Herta looked strong on the restart, as they charged up to the front. Herta was able to snag the lead for a few laps while everyone started to ease up on their fuel usage.

A few more yellow flags left O’Ward, Newgarden, and Palou pushing in the top three and almost pulling away from the pack. The racing was superb, as the trio ran most of the circuit side by side.

Unfortunately, Grosjean’s great day came to a gut-wrenching end after he hit the wall with two laps left. That crash effectively ending the race, as it finished under yellow. Newgarden walked away with his third Texas win and O’Ward left another race weekend with a second place finish that could’ve easily been a win.

What does this year’s IndyCar oval debut mean for the Indy 500?

The banking at Texas Motor Speedway is much steeper than it is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so this isn’t an exact science, but with this being the only oval race until then, it’s what we get. Several teams were running the same cars they’ll be using at Indy, so everyone got a good look at where they stand.

Four of the last six winners at Texas Motor Speedway have finished in the top four of the Indy 500. On the flip side, only one Indy 500 winner during that span has finished in the top five at Texas (Marcus Ericsson, 2022). So maybe Newgarden has a good showing in the Indy 500 but doesn’t get that elusive win.

The most obvious takeaway was how fast the Arrow McLaren Chevrolets are. We know O’Ward was the class of the field for most of the race. While Sunday didn’t go well for Rosenqvist or Alexander Rossi, all three drivers qualified in the top five.

Tony Kanaan has to be licking his chops to get in that car. They’ll be giving him an excellent chance to win his final IndyCar race next month. Helio Castroneves was able to win in Indy in 2021 after not running at Texas, and maybe TK will do the same.

Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing should be their usual selves come May. Both teams had two cars finish in the top six on Sunday and were consistent frontrunners throughout the race.

Had it not been for Takuma Sato hitting the wall and Will Power having pit lane issues, both teams likely would have had all of their drivers in the top half of the race, if not better.

On the manufacturer front, things were pretty even on the scoreboard, but the Chevrolets had more pace than the Hondas. Honda, which has won the last three Indy 500s, had cars up front, but the Chevrolets were able to overtake with relative ease when they needed to.

Next. All-time IndyCar wins list. dark

We’ve still got three more races until Memorial Day Weekend, but Sunday’s PPG 375 was our best preview of what may happen.