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

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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