Dixon soldiers home P5 with broken suspension after two Penske hits

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DETROIT – Scott Dixon ended fifth today in the second of two Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans races, but the driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was perhaps lucky to even finish at all.

Two incidents of contact during the race left Dixon driving wounded with a broken suspension for nearly the entirety of the 70-lap race.

The first came on the opening lap. Helio Castroneves started next to Dixon on Row 2, Castroneves in third and Dixon in fourth, with Castroneves moving left into Dixon just before the start and the final Turn, Turn 14, which sent Dixon sideways and nearly into the wall.

Quite how the four-time champion saved his car spoke to his ability level, but it damaged his car to where it couldn’t turn properly the rest of the day.

Then later in the race, on Lap 22, Dixon and Juan Pablo Montoya made contact at Turn 2. Both cars pitted for repairs.

Castroneves was ordered to give back one position to Tony Kanaan after the avoidable contact with Dixon, while the Dixon/Montoya contact was reviewed with no further action taken.

Despite the contacts, Dixon managed to stay in the top 10 most of the race and moved up to fifth, just behind Josef Newgarden, by the end of the race.

Neither Penske driver – Castroneves nor Montoya – had quotes listed in Chevrolet’s official post-race transcript of all quotes.

Meanwhile Dixon recapped his day to assembled reporters, including IndyCar Radio’s Katie Hargitt and yours turly.

“It wasn’t a good day. Helio smashes into us into the fence on the start. He swerved left and right into the wall. It cost us track position,” Dixon said.

“Then in the duel with Juan, I tried to give him room but obviously I didn’t get through the corner. It affected both our days. It gave us a puncture and dropped us little ways back.

“After the first big hit from Helio, we could turn right pretty well but not left. We had the suspension hit pretty bad.”

Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull expanded on the contacts in a separate interview with NBC Sports.

“They were viewed as racing incidents. But we were hit before the start by Helio,” Hull told NBC Sports. “They were coming before the bridge there. We got clobbered by Helio. I don’t think Helio would intentionally try to take himself out of the race before it begins! But it bent something in the suspension. We lived with that.

“Scott said, ‘It won’t turn right, and it won’t turn left, but other than that it is fine.’

“Then Juan, I don’t know what possessed Juan to make that move, but he came in with less than his full wing left and we had a flat tire. INDYCAR considered it to be not of consequence. We just live with those things. We race, and we had a great finish.

“I think our car was a lot better before we got hit, than after.”

Hull expanded and said INDYCAR Race Control can’t be held entirely to blame.

“The thing is, they have a thankless job. They don’t have our eyes. They only have the eyes given to them up there, and sometimes they don’t see the things we see,” Hull explained.

“After the fact, what they do diligently is they look at incidents and try to learn from them.

“I just hate to be an object for them to learn, twice.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.