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Dixon still leads points, but loses another win chance, at Texas

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After a chaotic to say the least Verizon IndyCar Series Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon could have afforded to feel aggrieved at losing yet another win chance Saturday night.

The usually unflappable “Iceman” left the track without a comment after being collected by Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato on Lap 243. Sato’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda tried to the inside of Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda on the dogleg of the 1.5-mile oval before coming up and into the fellow Honda.

The ensuring contact also collected Max Chilton and Conor Daly as innocent bystanders in a four-car accident that involved four cars with nearly identical blue and white paint schemes, Daly’s red, white and blue ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet standing as the only exception.

“It was an unfortunate bad situation. I had car on my right side. It bottomed out,” Sato told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “Nothing I could do. It was a great show. Very unfortunate we couldn’t finish the race.”

Such was the chaotic night though that despite Dixon’s truncated evening he was still classified ninth, and remains the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader through nine of 17 races.

The ninth place finish is actually Dixon’s second worst result in nine races; his other, of course, was his 32nd place registered after his airborne flight at Indianapolis following contact with Jay Howard. In the other seven races he’s finished between second and sixth, yet without a win.

Simon Pagenaud drove cagily and smartly as he did earlier this year to end third, maximizing points on a day when many others didn’t. He now sits second in points with 313.

Sato, even with the contact, ended 10th and is third on 312.

Helio Castroneves crashed out early and after his first finish outside the top-10 this year, is now fourth on 305 points, while Will Power was the big mover with his win to jump from eighth to fifth on 286.

Detroit double winner Graham Rahal sits sixth on points on 283, with Josef Newgarden (277), Tony Kanaan (264), Alexander Rossi (254) and James Hinchcliffe (232) completing the top-1o in points.

Max Chilton (229) and Ed Jones (228) are only a handful of points outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th, which means that through nine races this year there are still 12 drivers within 98 points – a staggeringly close number.

With a season-best result of seventh and his first top-10 finish of the year, Daly has finally moved past nearly all those drivers who’ve missed a race this year into 19th. Previously in the last weekend, he was behind JR Hildebrand, Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Hildebrand sits ahead of three drivers – Carlos Munoz, Charlie Kimball and Daly – who’ve driven in all nine races this year. The Californian missed Barber with a hand injury.

Dixon, meanwhile, heads to Le Mans for his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT commitments, as do fellow IndyCar full-season drivers Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin, along with NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell.

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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