Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – If Race 1 of the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR Doubleheader was any indication, it’s going to take more than an action-packed race and a series of late-race cautions to beat Scott Dixon in 2020.
Five-time series champion Dixon continued his undefeated start to the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by winning the REV Group Grand Prix Race 1 on Saturday, July 11 at Road America.
Dixon’s win Saturday follows victories June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway and July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With the win, Dixon became the first driver to win three-straight NTT INDYCAR SERIES races since Simon Pagenaud completed the feat in 2016 by winning the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and the GMR Grand Prix.
“I don’t know how that happened, man,” Dixon said. “We came out of the pits (on Lap 28), and they said, ‘You and Power are first and second.’ I was like: ‘How? How?’ I know we had huge out laps and a big in lap, as well. Definitely proud to be powered by Honda here.
“The car is difficult to drive. Huge thanks to everyone on the PNC crew. We dialed it in a bit during the race but still really tricky on the rears. Hard to keep them under you. But it looked like a lot of other people were struggling, as well. That was awesome, man.”
2014 series champion Will Power finished second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 2.5386 seconds behind Dixon. Rookie Alex Palou rounded out the podium with the best finish of his young career in the No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda. 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fourth in the No. 28 DHL Honda, and Colton Herta rounded out the top-five in the No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda.
The win was Dixon’s 49th career INDYCAR victory, inching him closer to Mario Andretti, who sits second on the all-time series wins list with 52 victories.
Dixon’s win at Road America broke the streak of nine different winners in the last nine races at the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course. Dixon won this race in 2017.
However, this win didn’t feature the dominant Dixon performance that the Chip Ganassi Racing team displayed in the first two races of the season. Dixon qualified ninth, his lowest starting spot of 2020.
A thrilling first lap that featured three- and four-wide racing and bold passes by Hunter-Reay, Rinus VeeKay in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet and Santino Ferrucci in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda set the tone for an action-packed day in Elkhart Lake.
Shortly thereafter, the track proved to be a tall challenge even for the most seasoned drivers, as all three previous winners at Road America entered in the field had trouble on the track and on pit lane.
Defending race winner Alexander Rossi continued his string of bad luck this season and was the first veteran to have issues near the beginning of the race. He went off course and hit signage placed in the grass along the track. Rossi had to pit to remove signage from his front wing but continued.
Then, on Lap 51, contact with Max Chilton’s No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet forced Rossi off track with more issues and resulted in a 19th-place finish in the No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.
Pit lane proved to be a tough place, too, especially for the Team Penske teammates of Josef Newgarden and Power.
On Lap 28, NTT P1 Award winner Newgarden stalled on pit road, and his crew had trouble restarting the engine. The incident dropped Newgarden from the lead to 12th position when the green flag pit stops cycled through. Newgarden, who 25 of the first 27 laps from pole, settled for a 14th-place finish in his No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
Newgarden’s pit lane incident allowed Power to inherit the lead under green after pit stops cycled through, with Dixon close behind. But a Lap 40 pit stop under caution proved troublesome for Power when the crew had trouble dropping the jack. The issue gave Dixon the lead for good exiting the pits and helped cement his victory.
“I don’t know what happened on the pit stop there,” Power said. “I think we had Dixon covered. He was pretty good, but I don’t think he would have got by us.”
The pit stop that gave Dixon the lead came under the first full-course yellow this racetrack has seen in three years when the 2017 edition of the race had two cautions and featured Dixon as the winner.
The caution flag flew for the first time on Lap 38 when Jack Harvey found himself stuck in the gravel pit, ending what was shaping up to be a solid day for the driver of the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.
And as the saying goes, cautions breeds cautions.
On the restart on Lap 42, contact between Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Conor Daly’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet in Turn 5 brought out the second caution. The two entered the corner side-by-side, and contact sent Daly hard into the tire barriers, ending his day and resulting in a 21st-place finish. O’Ward continued and finished eighth.
Then, the caution flag flew once again on the Lap 45 restart. Dalton Kellett had issues in Turn 14 coming to the green flag and found himself stuck in the sand trap in his No. 14 K-Line USA/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
The race restarted with eight laps to go, and Dixon pulled away from Power cruised home to victory. He averaged 116.027 mph in the 55-lap race that featured five lead changes and five different leaders.
Dixon will look to make it four-straight wins to start the NTT INDYCAR SERIES tomorrow in Race 2 of the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR Doubleheader at noon (ET, NBC) from Road America. Qualifying starts at 9 a.m. (ET, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold).