Scott Dixon holds off Takuma Sato at Gateway for 50th IndyCar victory

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Scott Dixon continued his march toward a sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship, capitalizing on a swift green-flag pit stop for a victory Saturday in the first race of a weekend doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

It’s the fourth triumph in eight races this year for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who opened the season with three consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Road America.

Dixon finished 0.14 seconds ahead of Takuma Sato, reversing the finishing order from Sunday’s 104th Indianapolis 500 for the 50th victory in the 329th start of his career — joining A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers with at least 50 wins.

RESULTS: Click here for where everyone finished Saturday at Gateway

With five races remaining, Dixon has a seemingly insurmountable 117-point lead on defending series champion Josef Newgarden in the championship standings.

“It’s totally awesome,” Dixon said on NBCSN. “I can’t thank the PNC Bank crew enough. That was a superb race all day. Sato was coming strong at the end, and I didn’t realize how strong he was coming. We were going into reserve mode to look after the engine, and he was coming with a head of steam.

“Just so happy for this team. Last week at Indianapolis was a bit of a bummer. So it’s nice to get a win, (and it be) 50! That sounds awesome. We’re going to keep on trucking and get a few more.”

Sato, who will start on pole position in Sunday’s race, nearly made it two consecutive victories, charging up to second during the final stint after a daring pass of third-place finisher Pato O’Ward.

Sato might have snatched the lead from Dixon if his last pit stop hadn’t been slow. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver said that was frustrating “but everyone is on the same feeling, and the boys did a fantastic job two weeks in a row.

“We carried a lot of momentum,” Sato, who moved up two positions to fourth in the points, said on NBCSN. ‘We lost some pace at the beginning of the race. I wasn’t entirely comfortable in the car. But we fought strong. I’m very proud of the team.”

O’Ward finished third after leading a race-high 94 of 200 laps.

The Arrow McLaren SP driver fell behind Dixon after his final green-flag stop on Lap 164 (“they just nailed it; that’s what you have to do,” Dixon said of his pit crew) and then lost second to Sato.

“I thought we had very strong pace all race,” O’Ward said. “We rolled out of the gates very strong, very consistent throughout the run. I don’t know what these guys do in the end. Dixon got ahead of us in the pits and then just left us. Then Sato just left us, too.”

Said fourth-place finisher Colton Herta: “I thought we had the podium, and then Takuma came out and totally surprised everyone on track.”

Herta still salvaged a tough day for Andretti Autosport, which lost three of its five cars in a crash before the green flag.

With his first checkered flag at Gateway, Dixon now has victories at 23 IndyCar tracks.

“That was a textbook Scott Dixon race today,” team owner Chip Ganassi told NBCSN pit reporter James Hinchcliffe. “Steady. One at a time. Nothing fancy. Couldn’t be more happy for him.”

Marcus Ericsson finished fifth, followed by Rinus VeeKay, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Felix Rosenqvist, Tony Kanaan and Conor Daly.

The IndyCar Series will race Gateway again Sunday with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.