Scott Dixon remained unbeaten in the NTT IndyCar Series, winning Saturday’s first half of a weekend doubleheader at Road America for his third consecutive victory to open the season.
Dixon easily held off Will Power on a restart with nine laps remaining in the REV Group Grand Prix No. 1 and pulled away for his 49th career victory, third on the all-time list and three short of tying the legendary Mario Andretti.
It also marked his second victory in the past four races at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course that had IndyCar fans in attendance for the first time this year.
RESULTS, POINTS: Full stats package from the season’s third race
WHAT DRIVERS SAID: Postrace reactions from all 23 drivers at Road America
“We’re in the business of win, so we’ve got to win,” Dixon, who started ninth, told NBCSN. “It’s so cool to be back at a track with fans, and there’s tons of them here today.”
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) July 11, 2020
Dixon already had won at Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course this year. It’s the most consecutive wins to begin a season by an IndyCar driver since Paul Tracy in 2003.
On Sunday (noon ET, NBC), Dixon will try to become the first to open a season with four victories in a row since Sebastien Bourdais won the first four races of the 2006 Champ Car season.
Through three races, Dixon has opened a staggering 62-point lead (155-93) in the championship standings on Simon Pagenaud, who finished 12th Saturday.
“It was a good drive,” team owner Chip Ganassi told NBCSN’s James Hinchcliffe. “We didn’t start exactly where we wanted to today, but (Dixon) persevered. It’s about the in laps, the out laps (from the pits). Scott’s a gem at that.”
Power finished a season-best second, followed by rookie Alex Palou, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta.
Santino Ferrucci, Graham Rahal, Pato O’Ward, Takuma Sato and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top 10.
Pit stop problems hampered two Team Penske drivers, Power and pole-sitter Josef Newgarden, who were the primary threats to Dixon.
Power got around Dixon with a daring pass into Turn 6 on Lap 28 and then cycled into the lead for 10 laps. But his team handed the lead to Dixon with a slow pit stop under caution on Lap 39. Dixon led the final 16 laps from there.
“Unfortunately we had to pit under yellow, and oh, man, I don’t know what to do anymore,” Power, who started fifth and was fastest in practice, told NBCSN. “We had the wrong gears in the car as well unfortunately, so that kind of hurt those restarts. It was a good day. We moved up to second.
“I just don’t know what we’ve got to do. We sit down as a team and understand how we can execute better. Especially when we just let wins like that go. I’ll have to look at the tape and see what happened. I think we had Dixon covered. He was pretty good, but I don’t think he would have gotten by us.”
Dixon said he was stunned when told he and Power had been running 1-2, adding later that he thought the timing and scoring was incorrect.
“I was like, ‘How?’ I know we had huge in and out laps,” the five-time series champion said on NBCSN. “The car is difficult to drive. Huge thanks to everyone on the PNC crew. We dialed it in a bit during the race but still really tricky on the rears. Hard to keep them under you. But it looked like a lot of other people were struggling, as well.
“That was awesome, man.”
Power took the lead after a disastrous 30-second pit stop for Newgarden, who led 25 of the first 27 laps while building a lead of more than 9 seconds. The defending series champion fell from first to 10th after stalling twice while in the pits on Lap 27 of 55.
After caution-free races at Road America in 2018 and ’19, the yellows piled up in the final 20 laps. The first was on Lap 38 for Jack Harvey, whose brake pedal went to the floor entering Turn 3 and left his No. 60 Dallara-Honda in the gravel trap.
The mechanical failure ruined a solid day for the Meyer Shank Racing driver, who qualified second for the second consecutive race.
A lap after the Lap 41 restart, the caution flag flew again for a collision between Pato O’Ward and Conor Daly, who caught the worst of it and climbed gingerly from his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet after heavy contact with the Turn 7 barrier.
Daly said his right shoulder “popped out” when his car spun, but he would “ice it down and see what happens” for Sunday’s noon ET start on NBC.
“Pato got out onto the curb and was really slow exiting,” Daly told NBCSN’s Dave Burns. “I had enough of a run to where honestly I thought it was going to be OK. I don’t really race with him that much. It wss tough there. That’s hard to go two wide. It’s probably on both of us a little bit. It’s really hard to go two wide there, but I had enough of a run that you had to take a chance. Can’t throw the blame on him.
“Sucks for us. That was really painful. We’ll fix it up and hopefully have a better day tomorrow.”
The yellow didn’t fly on the first lap, but there was plenty of action just after the initial green flag. Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi went off course and caught pieces of trackside banners on their front wings that necessitated pit stops to remove the debris.
It was the beginning of a dismal day for both. Andretti finished 22nd after his car stopped on course during a yellow flag with 15 laps remaining.
Rossi, the defending race winner, finished a lap down in 19th after his No. 27 Dallara-Honda. He made contact with Max Chilton’s No. 59 Dallara-Chevrolet with four laps remaining
Rossi had started 11th after mechanical woes in qualifying — the third consecutive race weekend his car has had technical woes. Through three races, the preseason championship contender has yet to finish on the lead lap, and his best result is 15th.
— Alexander Rossi (@AlexanderRossi) July 12, 2020