Scott Dixon opened the NTT IndyCar Series season with his second consecutive victory — and his first in the IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver capitalized on sound strategy and a well-timed caution Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, taking the lead from Graham Rahal on Lap 48 of 80 and controlling the second half of the race.
Dixon won by 19.9469 seconds over Rahal. Defending race winner Simon Pagenaud rallied to finish third after starting 20th. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay rounded out the top five.
“So good to be racing here back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Dixon told NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider in victory lane.
It was a breakthrough of sorts for the five-time series, who had finished runner-up the past three seasons in the GMR Grand Prix. Last year, Dixon led a race-high 39 laps before being passed by Pagenaud in the rain with four laps remaining.
“We’ve had so many runner-up spots here on the road course; it’s just nice,” Dixon said after his 48th career victory. “We got lucky, man. The strategy, the team just nailed it. We got lucky with that caution. But as soon as we got the balance right, the PNC Bank No. 9 just checked out. So it was a pretty easy day toward the end.”
Dixon, who started seventh after he barely missed advancing to the final round in qualifying, opened the 2020 season with a similarly dominant victory June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“We’ve had a good start here two out of two, but we’ll have to see,” Dixon said. “It’s tough competition right now. The series has a huge step to it. We’ll keep our heads down and keep trucking on. I can’t thank everybody enough on the team. They keep giving it a little bit extra. I messed up in qualifying yesterday, but it’s nice to rebound like we did.
“You don’t know how it’s ever going to go. Honestly with 15 to go, I thought there’d be a caution, have a repack, and Graham Rahal was super fast. I couldn’t believe his pace on the black tires. Just happy having a little bit of luck that put us in the right direction. Once the guys on the car made a change, it was so much easier as a driver, and we could just check out.”
With its 110th victory in IndyCar, Chip Ganassi Racing snapped a five-race winning streak on the IMS road course for Team Penske, which had the prerace favorite in Will Power.
For the first time in four races as the GMR Grand Prix pole-sitter, Power failed to win after qualifying first. He led the first 16 laps before a pit stop and then cycled into the lead again on Lap 27.
But the Team Penske driver’s strategy was scuttled after he pitted again during a full-course caution on Lap 35 for a crash involving Oliver Askew. Power never led again and finished a lap down in 20th.
The lone yellow flag flew when Askew spun in Turn 14 and backed his No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet into the SAFER barrier. It spoiled what had been shaping up as an excellent weekend for the Arrow McLaren SP rookie, who had qualified fifth Friday.
“I’m OK, just a little bit dizzy,” Askew told NBC Sports pit reporter Dave Burns after being released from the care center. “Sure I’m dehydrated as well. It’s super hot in the car. Really unfortunate. That’s unacceptable to have a result like that. I have to go back and check the data and talk to the guys and see exactly what happened.
“I just lost the rear of the car. It was toward the end of my stint, so the rears were starting to go away. It just really caught me off guard. Really sorry for the guys, and we’ll move on.”
It also was a disappointing race for Alexander Rossi, who lost power on the restart after Askew’s crash. Rossi, who also had engine problems in a 15th in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, said it likely was a fuel pressure problem that caused his 25th-place finish.
“It’s just unfortunate,” said Rossi, who was running seventh before the incident after starting 11th. ” We obviously got off to a decent start. (The Car) was good. We had a difficult day yesterday, but I thought we were fighting back for maybe a top five. It’s a shame to have two of these weekends in a row like this.
“It sucks, but we’ve got two doubleheaders now in the next two weeks. Four races, so we’re going to have to go hard and capitalize. We’re already thinking about going for race wins.”