Scott Dixon breaks through for elusive Long Beach win

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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.

RESULTS

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

Race Statistics
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
Lap Leaders:
Castroneves 1 – 29
Hawksworth 30 – 33
Dixon 34 – 53
Castroneves 54 -55
Bourdais 56
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.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.