LONG BEACH, Calif. – At a track and a city where he has had nothing but bad luck for the last 15 years, Scott Dixon finally broke through Sunday in the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
In eight prior starts in either CART or IndyCar dating to 2001, Dixon had only one top-10 finish – a fourth in 2010.
So he’d never even podiumed prior to today’s third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, but now he’s a winner at the historic street race after starting third and emerging ahead after the first round of pit stops.
After taking the lead on the first pit stop sequence from polesitter Helio Castroneves and leading at the halfway mark, Dixon controlled the race from there in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
“I was lucky enough to win here back in the day … in Indy Lights (in 2000),” Dixon told NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast in victory lane. “I never had the chance since then. Huge credit to the team and I saw what happened to Helio and TK during the crossover in the pit stop exchange there….I still can’t believe we won here at Long Beach.”
Dixon explained the pit stop exchange.
“It’s always hard to know. I tried to go to the left and tried maybe to go to the inside of Helio and Montoya wanted there,” he said. “I think Helio ended up moving over on Montoya and it sort of messed up his momentum and I could get a clear run on the outside. Credit to him for giving me the room, because he didn’t have to. That definitely started off the day well. I think we had the pace, we knew we had the pace. We were obviously really close to the 3 car, but once that pit stop exchange lost them the lead, there was no coming back.
Castroneves was held briefly in the pits while Tony Kanaan entered his own stall, thus avoiding a collision. But the delay was enough for Dixon to take the lead.
He stayed ahead on the final pit stop sequence and took the win by 2.2221 seconds over Castroneves.
“The first pit stop, we unfortunately got traffic there. We would have kept going,” Castroneves told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “That whole section, was going to be a great time for pit stops. It threw all that gap away. That was very tough. But it was better to be safe than sorry.”
Meanwhile the best battle on the track all race came between two of Castroneves’ other three Team Penske teammates for third.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud were neck-and-neck for third place, with Pagenaud making several attempts but unable to pass his teammate.
Kanaan made it home in fifth to complete a Ganassi-Penske top-five sweep.
Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and Sebastian Saavedra completed the top-10 in what was a generally uneventful race, with only one caution flag flying on Lap 4 due to debris on track.
Will Power had a tough race, ending 21st after stalling on the first pit stop sequence when trying to avoid another car having issues, Luca Filippi.
“Filippi had a problem. He stopped. I wasn’t sure what he was doing,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “I didn’t grab the clutch in time and I stalled. But this whole weekend… if I would have just done my job in qualifying, I wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Power’s struggles drop him, unofficially, to sixth in points. Montoya still leads by three over Castroneves, with Kanaan third and Dixon making a quantum leap from 15th up to fourth. NOLA winner James Hinchcliffe, who finished 12th Sunday, is fifth.
The series heads to Barber Motorsports Park next week for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Results Sunday of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 1.968-mile Streets of Long Beach circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (3) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 80, Running
2. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 80, Running
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 80, Running
4. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 80, Running
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 80, Running
6. (9) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 80, Running
7. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 80, Running
8. (10) Marco Andretti, Honda, 80, Running
9. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 80, Running
10. (11) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 80, Running
11. (8) Graham Rahal, Honda, 80, Running
12. (13) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 80, Running
13. (4) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 80, Running
14. (16) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 80, Running
15. (15) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 80, Running
16. (17) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 80, Running
17. (21) Conor Daly, Honda, 80, Running
18. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 80, Running
19. (19) James Jakes, Honda, 80, Running
20. (18) Will Power, Chevrolet, 79, Running
21. (22) Francesco Dracone, Honda, 78, Running
22. (14) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 77, Running
23. (23) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 69, Running
Winners average speed: 96.800 mph
Time of Race: 01:37:35.2353
Margin of victory: 2.2221 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 4 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 4 drivers
Castroneves 1 – 29
Hawksworth 30 – 33
Dixon 34 – 53
Castroneves 54 -55
Dixon 57 – 80
Point Standings: Montoya 119, Castroneves 116, Kanaan 93, Dixon 87, Hinchcliffe 83, Power 80, Pagenaud 73, Newgarden 66, Bourdais 66, Rahal 62.