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

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”