Scott Dixon short pits his way to win in Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway

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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.

RESULTS

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

Race Statistics
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

Lap Leaders:
Power 1 – 7
Pagenaud 8 – 66
Kanaan 67 – 86
Montoya 87 – 102
Kanaan 103 – 138
Dixon 139 – 140
Castroneves 141
Jakes 142 – 143
Dixon 144 – 184
Kanaan 185
Castroneves 186 – 191
Andretti 192 – 193
Dixon 194 – 228
Kimball 229
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.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”