Scott Dixon spoils Penske party to win at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) Scott Dixon spoiled Team Penske’s party at Road America.
First, his Chip Ganassi Racing team had to fix a faulty fuel cell on the No. 9 Honda that provided nervous moments during warmups Sunday.
The payoff came a few hours later when Dixon held off Josef Newgarden after a restart with eight laps to go to win the IndyCar race at the rural Wisconsin road course.
”Toward the end, I thought it was a straight-up battle,” Dixon said. ”I thought it was going to be tough.”
He edged Newgarden by 0.57 seconds, posting an average speed of 123.431 mph. Dixon’s first victory since Watkins Glen in September was his 41st career win, moving him within one of tying Michael Andretti for third on the list of drivers with the most IndyCar wins.
Ganassi had a chance for a weekend sweep. Kyle Larson, the NASCAR points leader, started on the pole at Sonoma, California, in a Ganassi car.
”The boss definitely likes winners,” the Ganassi team posted on Twitter . ”Scott Dixon got the job done today.”
Dixon picked up his first victory in four starts at Road America, a favorite stop among drivers. It was the second year the 14-turn course was back on the schedule following a nine-year hiatus.
Going into Sunday’s race, the Chevrolet-powered Penske team was the talk of the track after dominating through practice and qualifying.
Penske still had a pretty good day, with pole-sitter Helio Castroneves following teammate Newgarden in third place. They were followed by two more Penske drivers, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.
All had to look up to Dixon.
It was quite the finish for a day that started with some uneasiness because of the fuel pressure issues.
”Yeah we didn’t even know if it was going to run,” Dixon said.
It ran just fine, especially after the late restart. Until that point, Newgarden thought he might have had an edge with Dixon on tires.
”Just an ill-timed caution,” Newgarden said.
Dixon looked more pumped than usual, lifting a fist in the air during a victory lap.
There was much to celebrate this week for the team, which was marking the 25th anniversary of president Mike Hull joining Ganassi. Hull also serves as Dixon’s strategist.
Hull interrupted a post-race interview with Dixon just long enough to give the driver a celebratory hug.
”To be with any team is pretty amazing,” Dixon said. ”We were joking that to do that with Chip is even more amazing.”
KANAAN KNOCKED OUT
Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan, was knocked out after 44 laps when his No. 10 Honda hit the wall after going into turn 11 with Alexander Rossi . Kanaan walked away with a sore wrist.
”We were working our way back up … but then (Rossi) blocked me and put me in the wall,” Kanaan said. ”I don’t think it was a nice move at all, but I’m not going to waste my time with it.”
Rossi finished 13th, while Kanaan finished last.
Earlier this month at Texas, Rossi spun and made hard contact with the wall after getting pinched between Dixon and Kanaan, and Rossi’s car bounced off both the Ganassi cars while coming off the backstretch on lap 37.
TO THE POINTS
The win gave Dixon 379 points in the driver standings, allowing him to open up a 34-point lead over Pagenaud in second. Castroneves passed Takuma Sato to move into third place, 37 points back of the lead.
SATO DROPS BACK
Sato, the Indy 500 winner, dropped to fourth in the driver standings, 56 points behind Dixon. He finished 19th, unable to recover after his No. 26 Honda hit the wall coming out of turn 11. Sato hurt his neck but said after the race that he was fine.
A weekend that started for Mikhail Aleshin with a late arrival at Road America because of visa problems in France ended with a 10th-place finish. The Russian driver had to miss a day of practice in Wisconsin but arrived at the track on Saturday.
”Today’s result is not bad at all considering the problems we dealt with yesterday and with missing practice on Friday,” Aleshin said.
The series returns to an oval after a break for the July Fourth holiday, with a stop at Iowa on July 9. Newgarden is the defending champion at the nearly mile-long track.
”I was just joking with (Hull) that we need to have another 25th anniversary celebration in Iowa,” Dixon said.
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer in Sonoma, Calif., contributed to this report.
More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org