IndyCar: Dixon survives wild day at Portland to finish fifth and increase his points lead

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The saying goes that sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good. Well, on Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland, Scott Dixon certainly had luck on his side.

The luck came in multiple areas. Dixon was caught up on a Lap 1 pileup sparked by contact between James Hinchcliffe and Zach Veach – Marco Andretti notably went airborne and flipped in the incident.

“I thought it was pretty bad. I couldn’t see anything. Once I got off in the dirt, it was just dust everywhere. And I kept getting hit and hit, and I’m like ‘Oh God, this is not gonna be good. Surely the car ix gonna be in a bit of trouble,'” Dixon told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee after the race.

However, while Dixon did slide off into the dirt in the aftermath, he somehow did not suffer any damage. He was also able to keep his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda running, found reverse, and rejoined the field without losing a lap.

“The car was still running, I selected reverse, and had enough room to back out. And once the truck moved I was able to pull away,” Dixon explained.

Luck again turned in his favor on Lap 56 when, following a penalty for a pit speed violation, a caution flew for a spinning Zach Veach. The yellow destroyed the strategy for drivers like Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi, who were running 1-2 at the time, but played right into the hands of Dixon.

While Newgarden and Rossi pitted under yellow and fell back to 16th and 17th, Dixon stayed out to regain track position – he restarted in fourth on Lap 61.

With the whole of the field needing one more pit stop to make the finish, Dixon suddenly found himself in position to pad his points lead over Rossi.

Indeed, Dixon ultimately soldiered home to finish an impressive fifth, and with Rossi only able to climb up to eighth at the checkered flag, Dixon increased his points lead to 29 ahead of the season-ending INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

“Huge day for the team,” Dixon added. “This feels like a win for us in these circumstances. Lucky to keep the car going. Then we had a drive-through penalty with speeding on pit lane, which must’ve been a technical glitch because I definitely turned it off after – it was nothing that I did. Crazy, crazy!

Still, Dixon is not putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. He acknowledged that, with double points in play at Sonoma, 29 points is not a big gap, and Rossi is still very much in the thick of it.

“Obviously, going into Sonoma, (29 points) is not huge amount,” Dixon finished. “We’ll have to see how it affected (Will Power) as well. But, just really happy for the team. These guys and girls have worked so hard. I’m just stoked for them.”

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister