Scott Dixon stays perfect at Road America; wins 3rd straight in IndyCar

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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.”

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.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.