Dixon: Non-call against Pagenaud likely cost him Long Beach win


Scott Dixon was not happy with his runner-up finish in Sunday’s 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – but it wasn’t due to lack of performance.

Dixon was upset that race winner Simon Pagenaud was not penalized on Lap 55 for crossing the double yellow line before reaching the end of the pit road exit lane.

Crossing the double yellow line was discussed in the pre-race driver meeting and drivers were told anyone violating it would receive a penalty.

Shortly after that exit, Pagenaud grabbed the lead away from Dixon and motored the last 25 laps to his fifth career Verizon IndyCar Series victory.

“I don’t really want to comment because I haven’t seen the replay,” Dixon told NBCSN. “But I caught a replay on the big screen and it’s tough to see there, but I think he ran across (the double yellow lines) and the rules clearly state that you can’t have two wheels on the other side of the line before you get a penalty.”

IndyCar stewards issued a warning to Pagenaud, but he did not lose his position on the track and held on to capture the checkered flag.

“I just hope you’re not recircling with our stewardship here and doing warnings,” Dixon said. “He got a warning, so there’s meant to be no warnings left, so I don’t know what that’s all about.

“I think it was our race, man. So it is what it is.”

Dixon was going for his second consecutive win at Long Beach, but ultimately came up one spot short.

“Rules are rules and I hate it when you see it get changed,” he said.

Warnings were supposedly eliminated after last season, according to Chip Ganassi Racing team strategist Mike Hull.

“They told us with the steward system they were going to have this year, there would be no warnings, so he was either in the right or the wrong,” Hull said. “On the television (replay), it clearly showed all the viewers that (Pagenaud) didn’t stay in a straight line all the way to the exit of the pit lane.

“What we were told in the driver’s meeting, if anybody did that, that would be a penalty. They didn’t say what the penalty was, but he shouldn’t be leading the race.”

However, team owner Chip Ganassi took a more diplomatic approach to the incident.

“It was obviously a close call,” Ganassi said. “It’s certainly a chance to look for some opportunity how we can improve on questionable calls like that.

“It was obviously a questionable call. The video shows one thing and I don’t know what the stewards used to make their decision. But I sort of support what they do. But I kind of like the NASCAR system, where it’s black and white, there’s a camera there and the camera makes the call electronically. Maybe it’s an opportunity for us to improve.”

As for Pagenaud only getting a warning, Ganassi again took the diplomatic path.

“You look at those situations over the long term and over a year period or something, they’ve got a new group of stewards in the booth and they’re trying to do the best they can,” he said. “I applaud what they’re trying to do. It’s not an easy job what they have to do up there. I’m sure I’ll have a discussion with them and I’ll probably learn something I didn’t know.”

Regardless, Ganassi said he’s very happy with the way his team has performed overall in the first three races of the season, including Dixon’s win two weeks ago at Phoenix.

“You look at Dixon, he’s ahead in the points where he was a year ago after three races, so that’s good,” Ganassi said. “(Tony) Kanaan is doing a job good and Charlie Kimball is up ahead of where he was a year ago and Max Chilton, the newcomer to the team, is doing a great job himself.

“We’re happy at this moment and we want to have some momentum going to Indianapolis. Right now, I think we have that. Let’s carry it to Birmingham and then on to Indianapolis in May.”

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Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.