FORT WORTH – Late-race pit strategy in the form of short pitting for fuel strategy paved the way for Scott Dixon to win the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Dixon led a race-high 97 laps on the way to his second win of 2015 and his second win at TMS, the first coming in 2008.
Dixon, in the No. 9 Energizer Chevrolet, beat his teammate Tony Kanaan by 7.8 seconds, with Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti rounding out the top five.
“A big credit to the team, we were unsure what downforce to run towards the end,” Dixon told NBCSN. “We were struggling with that and we made some big changes after that. We made some big changes after the first stint, had a whole lot of understeer. TK was fast and we knew we had a good car, we just had to get it dialed in.
“I can’t thank the crew enough,” Dixon continued. “We had a run with this thing where we would constantly win. I am just over the moon with it, over the moon.”
The rest of the 23-car field, including polesitter Will Power and second-place starter Simon Pagenaud finished off the lead lap.
Pagenaud took the lead from Power on Lap 8 and led through green flag pit stops that began on Lap 28. It would be 60 laps before another car took over at the front of the the 23-car field, when Kanaan took point.
A consistent theme of the night was pit stops. Lots and lots of pit stops. The first car to pit was Jack Hawksworth on Lap 22, and teams would short pit throughout the night to deal with tire fall off.
Hawksworth’s No. 41 Honda was the first car to retire from the event, heading to the garage on Lap 77, while six laps later, the first and only caution waved for debris near the start-finish line.
Montoya was first off pit road followed by Castroneves, Kanaan, Dixon and Power. Pagenaud was the last off after a weight-jacker issue, then stalling in his pit box.
Power eventually told MotorSportsTalk and PopularSpeed.com that at that stage in the race, he began feeling ill in his No. 1 Chevrolet. Power finished the race in 13th, four laps down.
Montoya established the lead on the Lap 97 restart, but by Lap 103 had dropped to seventh with a loose car, giving Kanaan the lead again until teammate Dixon reached his car around Lap 120.
“I was really loose and started losing track position,” Montoya said. “I was like sliding in the corner sideways and I said at the caution ‘We need to take some of the wing out.'”
Montoya suggested a half-turn, but in “the rush” of the pit stop, it wound up being a half-turn in the wrong direction.
“I was leading at the restart and I (ran) four or five laps leading and I was like ‘this is going to get really, really loose, really fast,” Montoya said.
Another set of green flag pit stops began around Lap 135, during which Dixon assumed the lead from Kanaan.
While battling Kanaan to keep the lead, Dixon lapped Power, the polesitter, on Lap 154.
With 101 laps left, Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing was wiped out. Defending Firestone 600 winner Ed Carpenter exited his No. 20 Chevrolet with a blown engine. His teammate Josef Newgarden exited two laps later with a mechanical issue.
After another set of green flag stops, Dixon had a 5.5 second lead over Kanaan with 48 laps to go.
Dixon short-pitted with 21 laps to go, which gave up the lead to Charlie Kimball, who pitted with 19 to go.
Dixon’s pit strategy put him six seconds ahead of Andretti and Carlos Munoz with 15 laps to, setting up the final run to Dixon’s seven-second win.
FORT WORTH, Texas – Results Saturday of the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (7) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 248, Running
2. (8) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 248, Running
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 248, Running
6. (4) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 247, Running
7. (9) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 247, Running
8. (19) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 247, Running
9. (12) James Jakes, Honda, 247, Running
10. (20) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 246, Running
11. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 246, Running
12. (10) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 245, Running
13. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 244, Running
14. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 244, Running
15. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 243, Running
16. (13) Takuma Sato, Honda, 243, Running
17. (22) Pippa Mann, Honda, 242, Running
18. (21) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 241, Running
19. (23) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 239, Running
20. (16) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 156, Mechanical
21. (14) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 149, Mechanical
22. (15) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 147, Mechanical
23. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 62, Mechanical
Winners average speed: 191.940
Time of Race: 01:52:47.8511
Margin of victory: 7.8000 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 13 laps
Lead changes: 14 among 9 drivers
Power 1 – 7
Pagenaud 8 – 66
Kanaan 67 – 86
Montoya 87 – 102
Kanaan 103 – 138
Dixon 139 – 140
Jakes 142 – 143
Dixon 144 – 184
Castroneves 186 – 191
Andretti 192 – 193
Dixon 194 – 228
Dixon 230 – 248
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Montoya 348, Power 313, Dixon 305, Castroneves 286, Rahal 261, Andretti 255, Bourdais 244, Newgarden 215, Kanaan 215, Kimball 214.