INDIANAPOLIS – It took Scott Dixon 12 years to make a second trip to the winning streak at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He is already planning a third trip next month.
The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner put an end to the frustrating quest for a second win at the Brickyard, flicking Graham Rahal on the checkered flag by 19.9469 seconds on Saturday and claiming his first IndyCar Grand Prix title.
“It’s really nice to get another win in Indianapolis, even if it’s not the big one,” said Dixon. “It’s important, man, to win in this place. Sometimes you need a bit of luck and sometimes you need a clean race like today. ”
The atmosphere in Indy was subdued.
Dixon put on a face mask as he raised his arms and pumped his fist into the recently renewed winner’s circle. The stands were empty and the usual festival noise was almost non-existent.
But with three back-to-back runners-up in that race and a résumé full of near misses and bad luck on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval, Dixon was going to be having fun, and he seemed to be enjoying one of the rare prizes of victory – order to start the Xfinity’s first race Series of NASCAR on the road.
Dixon couldn’t have devised a better strategy for the 14-lap road course, which is 2,439 miles in length.
The New Zealander opted for the slower black tires and maneuvered through the field after the seventh start. Then, just a few laps after the pit stop to put the Reds on, Dixon got the break he needed when rookie Oliver Askew crashed into the outside wall trying to get forward immediately.
Dixon knew immediately that he was responsible.
“We were in the right situation to be tough. It was a breeze, ”he said. “Some of these guys were just sitting on ducks with the tires they were on.”
Dixon controlled most of the second half of the 80-lap race and helped partially when pole winner Will Power stalled in the pits.
And when he cleanly overtook Rahal, whose team-owning father Bobby won the Indy 500 in 1986, it was only a matter of time before Dixon posted his 48th career IndyCar win. Only AJ Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52) have more.
“Dixey had a tremendous pace right in the middle of the race,” said Rahal.
It was so fast in the clean air that no one could come near it.
Dixon’s win broke Team Penske’s monopoly on winning this race – the first on the track since Roger Penske bought it from the Hulman family in November.
Power from Australia and Simon Pagenaud from France shared the last six races on the road – the last five as teammates for the series powerhouse. Pagenaud was third on Saturday after qualifying 20.
“We weren’t entirely happy at the start of the race, but we made up a lot of ground in the pit row and gained a lot of ground that way,” said Pagenaud. “The yellow helped us a bit because we had done five laps beforehand.”
Even so, he failed to catch Dixon, who opened the season for the first time in his 20-year career with two consecutive wins, both in a dominant fashion. He won in Texas last month.
Saturday’s race ended a month-long hiatus for the series and started a busy schedule with four races over the next two weekends. It was also the start of an unprecedented IndyCar NASCAR weekend, which also includes the Brickyard 400 on Sunday.
IndyCar will return to Indianapolis in mid-August to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The race, which usually takes place on Memorial Day, is scheduled to take place in front of fans on August 23. The race organizers have announced that they will limit the number of participants to around 50%.
The last two GP winners also won the 500.
“I’m pretty aware of these statistics,” said Dixon. “And yes, it’s been a long time since 2008. It definitely escaped us and we’ll try to get a new one next month.”