Scott Dixon earned his first IndyCar win at Road America's picturesque and lightning-fast permanent road course. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver crossed the finish line 0.5779 of a second ahead of Team Penske's Josef Newgarden to win the KOHLER Grand Prix and earn the 41st win of his impressive career. It moved the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion within one victory of tying Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list. It's also the 13th straight season Dixon has won at least one race, extending his Indy car record.
"We raced as hard as we could," Dixon said. "We had a little bit of luck go our way, we had good strategy, the pit stops were fantastic. These are the days you have to capitalize on.
"This is huge for Honda at a track that doesn't suit our configuration, but the power and the (fuel) mileage really performed today. I'm just happy to be in the winner's circle for the first time this year. At Road America, that's mega."
Driving the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, Dixon started fifth and made what wound up the decisive pass of the day on Lap 31. Relying on his softer Firestone alternate tires, Dixon passed Newgarden who was using the primary tire compound on a restart and into the lead heading into Turn 1 on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn circuit.
"I think strategy-wise we definitely played it right with going to the red (alternate) tires at that point," Dixon said. "The (primary) blacks definitely take a bit longer to come up, to get the grip that you need.
"Josef gave me the room. He obviously had a moment which made it pretty close and pretty tight with the way his car slid, but we both got through there. With other people, you probably wouldn't have pulled that off. It was nice to race clean with Josef today."
Dixon led 24 of the last 25 laps to win for the first time at Road America in his fourth start on the track named by most Verizon IndyCar Series drivers as their favorite road course. Dixon has now won on 11 of the 16 circuits on this year's schedule.
His first win of 2017 allowed Dixon to stretch his championship lead to 34 points over last year's titlist, Simon Pagenaud. It also makes Dixon the eighth different driver to win in 10 races this season, another indicator of the ultra-high level of competition within the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Team Penske drivers finished second through fifth in the 55-lap race. Trailing Newgarden across the finish line were Helio Castroneves (No.3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet) in third place, Pagenaud (No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) in fourth and Will Power (No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) in fifth.
"It stings a little bit coming home second when you feel like you have a winning car," said Newgarden, who started third in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. "Scott was great today, so was Ganassi Racing. Those guys did a great job, certainly very deserving of the win. But that's tough coming up a little bit short.
"I felt like when the caution came out and we were on the primary tires, Helio and Scott had the alternates, I thought this is probably not going to be very good on the restart," Newgarden added. "It was hard to get temperature in them to get up to speed for the restart."
Dixon, with eight top-six finishes in the first 10 races, has totaled 379 points through 10 races. Pagenaud is second in the standings with 345, Road America pole sitter Castroneves third at 342, Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato fourth with 323 and Newgarden fifth at 318.
Sato, battling a painful strained neck muscle, lost control of his No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda on Lap 29 and hit the barrier in Turn 11, bringing out the first full-course caution.
"It was a tough weekend and tough race." said Sato "I injured my neck during practice Saturday morning. We started in the back row, tried to make a push up, but I caught an accident. The engine was stalled and I wasn't sure if we could continue, but the safety crew came and fired up the engine, so I came back to the pit, buckled again and I was able to keep going. In the end we made the finish, but we need a better weekend. Iowa is next and we will be ready."
Tony Kanaan, in the No.10 NTT Data Honda, crashed in the same area on Lap 46 after making light contact with the No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda of Alexander Rossi. Kanaan was making his Indy car-record 275th consecutive race start.
"It hasn't been our weekend here at Road America for sure." said Kanaan "We were working our way back up and we thought we had a good chance at getting a top-10 finish, but then he (Alexander Rossi) blocked me and put me in the wall. I don't think it was a nice move at all, but I'm not going to waste my time with it. My wrist is a little sore, but I'm OK overall. That was a big hit. Congrats to Scott (Dixon) and the No.9 car. They were fast all weekend."
The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, which airs live at 5 p.m. ET July 9 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
1. (5) Scott Dixon, Honda, 55, Running
2. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 55, Running
3. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 55, Running
4. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 55, Running
5. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 55, Running
6. (10) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 55, Running
7. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 55, Running
8. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 55, Running
9. (7) Max Chilton, Honda, 55, Running
10. (19) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 55, Running
11. (13) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 55, Running
12. (14) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 55, Running
13. (15) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 55, Running
14. (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 55, Running
15. (21) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 55, Running
16. (18) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 55, Running
17. (17) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 55, Running
18. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 54, Running
19. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 54, Running
20. (9) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 53, Running
21. (16) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 44, Contact
Winner's average speed: 123.431 mph
Time of Race: 1:47:18.9870
Margin of victory: 0.5779 of a second
Cautions: 2 for 3 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 379, Pagenaud 345, Castroneves 342, Sato 323, Newgarden 318, Power 316, Rahal 307, Kanaan 273, Rossi 271, Jones 254.
Photographs by John Sukowaty, a contributor to Sports Car Illustrated. To contact John or view more of his work visit his website at www.racedayphotog.com
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