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

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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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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.”