Honda claims 200th IndyCar victory at Pocono

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Honda Performance Development celebrated its 20th anniversary in April. A little less than three months later, it’s time for HPD to throw another party after claiming its 200th win in North American open-wheel racing with Scott Dixon’s triumph at the Pocono IndyCar 400.

“It does mean a lot,” said Dixon, who has raced with Honda powerplants since the 2006 season. “It’s special. I haven’t been a Honda [driver] all my career but the time I’ve had with them has been fantastic. We’ve gone through ups and downs and won a lot of things together, and my biggest races have been won with Honda.

“Obviously, I love working with them and they’re a great group of people, and to be at that milestone with them is fantastic for me. So you know, let’s move on to 300, I guess.”

Honda first made its way into IndyCar in 1994, with Andre Ribeiro taking its first win one year later at New Hampshire International Speedway (now New Hampshire Motor Speedway). That day, Ribeiro won by over 14 seconds for Honda victory No. 1, whereas Dixon defeated Charlie Kimball today by less than half a second in Honda victory No. 200.

“It’s just such an incredible day for Honda and everyone at Honda Performance Development,” said HPD technical director Roger Griffiths in a statement. “I’m so pleased for every one of our associates who have been involved in our 200 race wins, for the Target Chip Ganassi organization on scoring their 100th and Scott [Dixon’s] 30th wins – just a great day all-around.”

Chevrolet appeared to have the edge on power after sweeping the top six spots on the grid in yesterday’s qualifying, but superior fuel mileage from updated engines enabled the Honda squads to neutralize the Bowtie’s advantage.

The first stops of the afternoon were very telling as the Chevy-powered pole sitter, Marco Andretti, pitted from the lead on Lap 30 – two laps before Dixon ducked in for his own service. Later on, the third round of stops saw Andretti go in on Lap 95 – a full five laps before Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Kimball and Dario Franchitti, went in together at Lap 100.

Andretti would eventually fade to 10th at the finish while trying to make fuel on his final run (he would barely reach the finish and run dry on his cool-down lap), while Dixon, Kimball and Franchitti went on to lock out the Pocono podium.

“The fuel mileage of the Honda engine was exceptional,” said Franchitti. “We are still a little shy on the horsepower but in race conditions there, it was really the thing to have.”

The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion also noted that the updated Honda motors are expected to make his team more competitive versus the Chevy camp in the road/street races ahead.

“The engine we have in the car now should suit the tracks we are going to, whether it be Toronto, Mid‑Ohio, Sonoma, Baltimore, all those places coming up,” he said. “Probably, [Pocono] wasn’t going to be its strongest track, so we are pretty excited moving forward.”

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.