Scott Dixon wins in Ganassi 1-2-3 finish at Pocono

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Scott Dixon spearheaded a Chip Ganassi Racing sweep of the podium, leading teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti to the checkered flag and winning the Pocono IndyCar 400.

Dixon’s victory, his first of the season, proved to be a milestone for both his sponsor Target – which achieved its 100th victory as a primary sponsor in motorsports – and for engine manufacturer Honda, which claimed its 200th IndyCar victory in style. It also marked the first time that a Ganassi team had finished 1-2-3 in any form of motorsports.

“Going into this morning, I was not thinking we could win,” Dixon told ESPN in Victory Lane. “The team has definitely not given up, and you have to hand it to Honda as well. Fuel mileage was a big key today and we still had speed up front without having to save [fuel] all the time.

“There’s no doubt the Honda teams have kind of been the underdogs recently. At the start of the year, we had some good runs with Sato and a few other guys getting some victories, but we’d been struggling a little bit. We had our own problems as a team. But to get a 1-2-3, Charlie second, Dario third…It was a fantastic day.”

His boss, Chip Ganassi, also admitted that he wasn’t expecting the final outcome.

“I was just hoping for a decent finish today,” he said. “I want to thank everybody involved with this team for pulling it off – Honda, our guys in the shop, everybody across all of our teams contributed to this today.”

Dixon took the lead for good from Kimball with 28 laps to go, just after the cycle ended on the final wave of green flag stops. That cycle was started by Marco Andretti with 34 laps remaining, and his lack of fuel mileage forced him to save fuel and fall back to tenth at the checkered flag after dominating much of the afternoon.

“I think we should have responded quicker,” Andretti said about the situation. “I’m so frustrated for everybody. We were so dominant and I’m just so gutted.”

Joining him in the hard-luck club was Tony Kanaan, whose bid for a Triple Crown ended with a critical mistake while going for the lead on Lap 106. Going into Turn 1, he moved to the inside of Dixon but clipped his front wing in the process of making the pass.

With the wing moving around, Kanaan had to pit on Lap 110 for a new nosecone and subsequently went a lap down. He was able to get back on the lead lap, but had to settle for 13th.

In the title picture, Helio Castroneves increased his lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay to 23 points after the latter was hit from behind by Takuma Sato in a pit road incident at Lap 61. Hunter-Reay eventually returned to the track but finished 20th in contrast to Castroneves’ eighth-place result.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Pocono IndyCar 400
Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
Final Results

Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (17) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
2. (12) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
3. (20) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
4. (4) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
5. (15) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
6. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
7. (22) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
8. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
9. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
10. (1) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
11. (9) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
12. (13) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 160, Running
13. (5) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 160, Running
14. (19) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 159, Running
15. (21) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 159, Running
16. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 159, Running
17. (24) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 158, Running
18. (16) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 158, Running
19. (10) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 158, Running
20. (2) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 121, Handling
21. (23) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 104, Handling
22. (7) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 61, Contact
23. (18) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 2, Mechanical
24. (3) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 0, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 192.864
Time of Race: 02:04:26.4178
Margin of victory: 0.4572 of a second.
Cautions: 2 for 12 laps
Lead changes: 16 among five drivers

Lap Leaders
Andretti 1 – 29
Kanaan 30 – 31
Power 32 – 33
Kimball 34
Andretti 35 – 60
Kanaan 61 – 62
Power 63 – 65
Kanaan 66 – 71
Andretti 72 – 94
Kanaan 95 – 96
Dixon 97 – 106
Kanaan 107 – 109
Power 110 – 111
Andretti 112 – 121
Power 122 – 129
Kimball 130 – 132
Dixon 133 – 160

Point Standings
Castroneves 356
Hunter-Reay 333
Andretti 301
Dixon 292
Hinchcliffe 272
Kanaan 271
Pagenaud 269
Wilson 253
Power 242
Sato 241

Haas F1 tussling in middle of pack in 2nd season

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) For a second-year Formula One team, Haas F1 should be all smiles.

The only U.S.-based team on the grid has faster cars and has already scored more points this year behind veteran drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen than it did in all of 2016.

Yet it’s that sort of success that can both please and frustrate team principal Guenther Steiner and test the patience of industrialist owner Gene Haas: Despite the better results, Haas hasn’t moved any closer to the front of the team standings as it scraps around the middle of the pack while Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull grab all the glory.

“There are so many people fighting for the crumbs,” Steiner said ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix. “I didn’t expect the competition in the midfield to be so brutal this year.”

Still, it’s better to be in the middle of the scrap than left behind.

“It’s been an up-and-down season,” Magnussen said. “When we’re quick, we’re very quick, but our lows have been perhaps a bit too low.”

For Haas F1, this race weekend is a homecoming of sorts. While the team is based in North Carolina, the Texas race is the only one on the calendar in the U.S., making Haas F1 the home “favorite” with American fans even if it really has no chance of winning.

“It would be nice to put a whole weekend together, have good practices, good weather, not wreck your car… kind of like we did in Japan,” Haas said.

The Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago delivered Haas F1’s best overall performance this year. It was the first time this season both cars finished in the top 10 and put them at seventh in the team standings with 42 points, one place and already 13 points better than their 2016 finish.

While Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are closing in on another team and drivers’ championship, only 24 points separate the team standings from fifth through eighth place. The most exciting battles and daring drives over the final four races could come from the middle of the pack as teams scuffle for points and the season-ending money that comes with them.

“We’re in that tight pack that ebbs and flows from race to race,” Gene Haas said. “It’s a constant dance around each other for position.”

Haas is still getting used to a Formula One reality that only a few teams have a realistic chance of winning each week and others just dream for a shot at a podium finish. He came to Formula One from NASCAR – where he is still a partner in Stewart-Haas Racing – and a track environment where “at any race, every team has a chance to win.”

Haas F1 impressed the rest of the teams just by not finishing on the bottom in its first season in 2016. That only raised expectations the team could fight its way to the front of the second tier this year. This season began with a thud when both Haas cars failed to finish the first race in Australia. That hasn’t happened since and the team has scored in three of the last five races.

Gene Haas figures reliability problems – a failed suspension system recently knocked Magnussen out of a top-10 finish – have cost his team dearly.

“Right now I feel like our drivers are better than our cars,” he said.

Haas got into F1 with an admitted goal of boosting his commercial enterprises as a high-tech tool manufacturer and he says that’s paying off away from the track. The trick is staying long-term in a very expensive sport that sees heavyweight manufacturers like Ferrari and Mercedes sometimes double or triple the budgets of other teams.

Formula One has not been kind to small teams that join the grid only to go bust within a few years. Haas is the first American-owned team in the series in 30 years. Three other teams that tried to start from scratch since 2010 – Caterham, HRT and Manor – all collapsed and went out of business. Haas said he as a five-year plan in F1 to see if he can stay longer.

“If you do the five-year plan and you look at (those) teams from the past, their five-year plan was they went out of business. You want to avoid that one,” Haas said.

Grosjean, who signed with Haas from Lotus, said he expects the team to be on the grid for the long haul.

“He’s the best team owner I’ve ever had,” Grosjean said. “He’s passionate about racing and really loves it to a high extent. We know the gap is big right now, but that’s where the patience is.”