Scott Dixon’s victory in unlikely circumstances on the Indianapolis Road Course was one for the ages. It came in his 319th consecutive race start, which broke Tony Kanaan’s Iron Man record, and means he has secured a race victory in every season for the past 19 campaigns. It’s also his 54th career win, only behind the great A.J. Foyt.
Dixon had qualified 16th for the race, struggling in the group stages, and had his race compromised in the early stages when he was spun at Turn 7 on Lap 1
However, the signs of pace were there, with Dixon going fastest in yesterday’s final practice.
What transpired in this morning’s race was nothing short of a drive that further cements Dixon’s name among those of all-time IndyCar greats.
“This one was very special, especially breaking the Iron Man record of 319 straight races,” said Dixon. “This was the way to do it.”
“The competition in this series is tough, and this is a testament to the team and what they bring to the table. We’ve had a very successful year, and to get one with the No. 9 PNC Bank team feels very good.”
Second-place finisher Graham Rahal, who finished only half a second behind the Kiwi, conceded it was an incredible drive, his thumbs up to Dixon over the line a sign he had simply been out bettered by a legend of the sport.
Dixon’s spin at Turn 7 on Lap 1 resulted from a four-wide battle between those ahead, with Alex Palou running alongside Marcus Armstrong before backing out. Armstrong turned in but collected the wing of his teammate, spinning across the middle of the track at the corner exit.
Romain Grosjean made low-speed contact with the Kiwi, while Josef Newgarden wasn’t as lucky, running onto the nose cone and stranding his car. Dixon, meanwhile, spun as he got into the back of Palou and was hit by a compromised Grosjean.
Dixon stopped under the ensuing Safety Car, which put both Newgarden and Armstrong a lap down. His challenging qualifying session worked in his favour in this regard, with the team having an extra set of alternate tyres up their sleeve.
Scott McLaughlin, meanwhile, had made his way to seventh ahead of the Lap 8 restart.
As pit strategies came into play, the earlier stop and extra set of tyres worked well for Dixon, who had made steady ground and made plenty of moves from the rear of the field. He would lead at points during the pit cycle.
With 23 laps to run, Dixon reappeared at the front after other competitors made their final stops. Rahal emerged as his top contender, but Dixon’s lead was almost 5 seconds at this point.
Rahal ate into this, and with ten laps to run, the gap had reduced to three seconds. Dixon lost time lapping Ryan Hunter-Reay, and with five laps to run, his lead had diminished to 1.2 seconds.
The battle was on with two laps to run, but Rahal couldn’t get a move done, seeing Dixon take the win by half a second. Third-placed Patricio O’Ward was a further 7.5 seconds down the road.
McLaughlin finished eighth, while Armstrong was classified 24th, having lost laps due to his opening lap incident.
“It was a tough day,” said Armstrong. “We got hit at the start, and then after that, we were a lap down. We were on a very heavy fuel-saving strategy with some damage to the car, so we just tried to push to the end. The car was great up until that moment in time. Congrats to Scott and the #9 car team for the win.”
Championship-leading Palou was seventh, while Newgarden, who had been second, was 25th.
“It was a busy day and a very busy first couple of laps,” said Palou. “We played an aggressive strategy which worked really well on the first couple of stints. Then, when we wanted to go fast on the better tire, we didn’t make it work.”
“We had some issues with tire degradation, but it was a solid day for us on the championship side. It was an amazing day for Scott winning the race today.”
Dixon is now second in the standings, 101 points behind Palou, with three races left to run.
IndyCar returns to the oval next round on August 27, with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at the World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois.