Dixon leads most laps in Indy 500, 84, but ends unrepresentative fourth

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INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon led a race-high 84 laps and had his best shot since his first and thus far only Indianapolis 500 triumph in 2008 to add a second to his resume.

But despite scoring the pole position, he ended an unrepresentative fourth at the end of the 2015 edition, the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The first thing that seemed to prove Dixon’s undoing early, was, ironically, his fuel mileage.

Dixon, the renowned fuel saving master, wound up pitting earlier than most of his counterparts in the early portion of the race because he was out front.

Still, he recycled to the front more often than not. Of his 84 laps led, he led 56 of the first 100 laps and only 28 of the last 100.

Dixon was engaged with two Team Penske teammates at any one time. Most of the day it was Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, and only in the latter portion of the race did eventual race winner Juan Pablo Montoya emerge as a contender along with Power.

Dixon and Power exchanged the lead in the final 15-lap dash, before Montoya came calling first on Lap 192, and then again on Lap 197.

Meanwhile Dixon fell back a position to fourth in the final four laps, with his own teammate Charlie Kimball getting ahead of him.

“I think we generally had a pretty good restart there. I was just trying to pace it,” Dixon said. “When I really needed to go, I just couldn’t turn the car. We were fighting a little bit with the car overheating, so we were trying to go over different ignition maps. There was definitely a lot going on.

“As the laps were counting down I was trying to make something happen. Every time I came to the apex at Turn Two or even Four toward the end, the front just wouldn’t hang on and I had to breathe it.”

Dixon, ever the consummate professional, congratulated his rivals on a great race.

“Congrats to Juan. He drove a hell of a race and it was a good comeback from where he came from,” he said. “Obviously Charlie did a good job too coming up to third. I’m real proud of the Team Target guys. They did a good job all month but unfortunately we came away with fourth.”

Asked what he thought he could change, Dixon said he wanted more front end grip.

“Probably would have gone more front wing or a pressure change or something to get a little more front end.

“I was OK when I was in second place, but if I dropped to third or fourth, it was keep the car turning middle off, and that’s what caught us out. We’ll come back. The Target team has been strong all year, but this one always hurts.”

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”