Dixon dominates Texas for second win of 2018

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Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 saw Scott Dixon dominate the second half of the race to take his second win of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, and his third at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon, who started seventh, cracked the top five on Lap 73 following the first round of pit stops, and assumed the lead on Lap 132 following a round of pit stops, cycling ahead of then leader Robert Wickens.

Dixon never surrendered the lead on track from there, only losing it during cycles of green flag pit stops, to lead 119 laps and eventually win by over four seconds.

The win is the 43rd of Dixon’s career and breaks a tie between him and Michael Andretti for third on the all-time IndyCar wins list, and vaults him into the championship lead, by 23 points over Alexander Rossi.

“All around great team effort. Everybody at the PNC Bank crew was good. Car setup was obviously phenomenal. Strategy was perfect. So it’s nice to have one of those nights. It’s not too often you get sort of a runaway especially in the series at the moment. It was kind of cool to see for us,” Dixon expressed afterward.

Behind him, Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi, and James Hinchcliffe engaged in a thrilling battle for second in the final laps. Rossi tried several times to pass Pagenaud on the outside entering Turn 1, but never was able to clear Pagenaud, allowing Hinchcliffe to close in as well.

In the end, Pagenaud hung on to finish second – overcoming a tire blistering issue in the process – with Rossi rounding out the podium in third ahead of Hinchcliffe in fourth. Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top five, finishing fifth.

Graham Rahal (sixth), Takuma Sato (seventh), Sebastien Bourdais (eighth), Ed Jones (ninth), and Charlie Kimball (tenth) rounded out to the top 10.

Pole sitter Josef Newgarden led the opening 60 laps before his first pit stop, but made an unscheduled stop on Lap 97 after suffering tire blisters. Newgarden did get back on the lead lap following a Lap 205 crash, involving Will Power and Zachary Claman De Melo, and ran inside the top 10, but was penalized for jumping a restart with 34 laps left. Newgarden ended up 13th at the end.

The aforementioned Wickens led in the second stint of the race, and looked poised to battle Dixon for the win in the second half of the race. However, his run ended early on Lap 173, as he crashed entering Turn 3 while trying to lap Ed Carpenter.

While tire falloff was somewhat limited – speeds only fell about 3-4 mph over a stint – blistering issues impacted a handful of drivers throughout the race, with the Team Penske drivers appearing to suffer the most issues.

As previously described, Newgarden fell out of contention early on after an unscheduled stop on Lap 97. Teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power also battled similar issues, but elected to stay out rather than make unscheduled stops.

After Newgarden led early, Wickens assumed the lead on Lap 97, passing Pagenaud, who cycled into the lead following the initial round of pit stops.

Wickens held the lead until he made his next stop on Lap 127, and ran second behind Dixon when he assumed the lead on Lap 132.

With Dixon sprinting away, Wickens and Rossi battled for second, with Rossi eventually taking second as Wickens got hung up behind lapped traffic.

Wickens’ night then ended on Lap 173, when he and Ed Carpenter crashed in Turn 3. Wickens had been trying to lap Carpenter, but was pinched on the inside entering Turn 3. The two made contact and spun into the outside wall. Carpenter later admitted he was at fault for the incident.

The caution was the second incident of the race – Matheus Leist brought out the first yellow on Lap 7 when his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing slowed and caught fire in Turn 3, though Leist managed to quickly jump out of the car before the fire spread.

With the leaders pitting on Lap 178 under the Wickens/Carpenter caution, it left them just outside the fuel window to make it to the finish. However, several drivers, including Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal, topped off the fuel prior to a Lap 186 restart, and appeared good to make the finish if the race stayed green.

Indeed, they were in fuel conservation mode when racing resumed on Lap 186, but both ran solidly inside the top 10 while doing so, with Hunter-Reay even holding strong inside the top five.

However, the Lap 205 caution for Will Power and Zachary Claman De Melo saw their strategy fall apart. Claman De Melo got a nice run on the outside of Turns 3 and 4 and tried Rahal and Power, getting to the outside of Power exiting Turn 4.

Alas, Power washed up into Claman De Melo exiting the corner, and they both made wall contact on the front straightaway, ending their nights early.

Power also is slated to receive a post-race penalty for avoidable contact, as he was deemed at fault for the incident.

The caution allowed everyone to pit on Lap 210, well within the window to make the finish on fuel.

A restart with 34 laps remaining saw Dixon immediately sprint away from the field, and he cruised home to take the victory, his second in the last three races, ahead of Pagenaud, Rossi, Hinchcliffe, and Hunter-Reay.

For Dixon, the win also is a source of immense pride and accomplishment, as he officially passed Michael Andretti for third on the all-time wins list. And Dixon is quick to admit how privileged and fortunate he feels to be mentioned among the sport’s all-time greats.

“It’s really cool. Obviously I have massive respect for a lot of these drivers. But when you look at those names, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, the Unsers, to me it still seems very strange that ‘Dixon’ is on that list, too,” he revealed.

“I feel very privileged and lucky to do what I get to do. I love racing. I love the Verizon IndyCar Series. I think it’s the best racing on the planet, one of the most difficult with all the disciplines. For me, man, I just hope it continues. I hope we can keep a winning style, pick up wins. It’s so difficult right now it’s so competitive.”

Second-place finisher Pagenaud was plenty excited to be back on the podium, his first time there since he won last year’s season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

“It was fun. I mean, I had a lot of good battles, especially with Alexander at the end. Gave me some gray hair, the last 30 laps. But we managed to hold him off. That was really cool,” Said the 2016 IndyCar champion.

Pagenaud added, “Just to get a good result like this for us, I think the 22 team needed a break. I think we got one tonight. For DXC, it’s pretty awesome. We had about three thousand employees from DXC tonight, so it was good to have a good showing.”

Rossi added that, after his error in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, he was keen to ensure he ended up with a podium finish, even if it meant playing things a little safe while battling with Pagenaud.

“After last weekend, there was really no point in taking unnecessary risks,” he explained. “But the NAPA car was good enough to fight Scott probably. I don’t know if we had enough to beat him. But I think we were really good on tire life, ultimate pace. There wasn’t a car I felt less superior to, I guess. A good night for the whole NAPA team and Andretti. Yeah, we’ll just take another podium and focus towards Road America.

Results are below. The Verizon IndyCar Series now takes a weekend off before heading to Road American for the KOHLER Grand Prix (June 24, NBCSN).

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”