Kiwi kudos at Texas as Scott Dixon holds off rookie Scott McLaughlin for IndyCar victory

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Scott Dixon cruised to his fifth NTT IndyCar Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway, renewing his bid Saturday night for a record seventh championship.

Winning for the second consecutive year and the third time in the past four starts at Texas, Dixon started third and quickly took the lead from Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and pole-sitter Alex Palou on the third lap.

The reigning series champion rarely was challenged from there, fending off a spirited drive by Team Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin by 0.2646 seconds for a 1-2 finish by the New Zealand natives in the field.

“Man, I love this place,” Dixon, who led 206 of 212 laps, told IndyCar on NBC pit reporter Marty Snider. “Bit of a crazy night for us, definitely very tense here at the end. It was cool to be racing a countryman for those last few laps. They definitely turned up strong.

POINTS, RESULTS: IndyCar stats package from Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway

“I have this thing on the dash that tells me the gaps to the (trailing) cars. I probably need to take it off because it was stressing me out. (McLaughlin) was fast, especially the exit of (Turn) 2. Especially the conditions got cooler, it definitely was a lot easier to go flat. But definitely difficult conditions in traffic, but we won, man. That’s what counts.”

It was a career-best finish for McLaughlin, the three-time Supercars champion who started 15th in an oval debut in his fourth IndyCar start.

“I’ve never been this bloody happy second,” McLaughlin said. “I’m really stoked. Just couldn’t get Scotty at the end. But it was bloody cool battling with one of my all-time favorite heroes, Scotty Dixon. Two Kiwis 1-2 is fanatastic. My mum and dad is watching at home for sure. Very proud.”

Pato O’Ward finished third, followed by Alex Palou and Graham Rahal.

Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top 10 in a clean race that was slowed twice by yellow flags for incidents.

With his 51st career victory and first of the season, Dixon extended his streak of winning seasons in IndyCar to 17 and broke a tie with A.J. Foyt for most seasons (19) with a victory.

He is one victory from tying Mario Andretti for second on the all-time victory list (Foyt holds the record mark of 67).

“I never dreamed of that, man,” Dixon said. “I feel so lucky and so privileged to do what I do. We’re one away. It would be great to tie it tomorrow night if we can.”

Dixon also moved into first in the championship standings by 18 points over Palou, putting him on the pole for Sunday’s IndyCar race at Texas (5 p.m., NBCSN).

The caution flew for the first time on Lap 56 after Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet backed into the outside Turn 2 SAFER barrier. Bourdais said he and Herta, who was directly in front of him, were slowing down to make a pit stop when Newgarden drilled Boudaris at speed from behind while running in the top 10.

IndyCar stewards penalized Newgarden several positions under yellow for avoidable contact.

“Just a really tough break,” Bourdais told pit reporter Dave Burns on NBCSN. “We really struggled bad this afternoon. The engineers did a great job, the car was actually really racy and pretty darn good. I don’t know, man. Clearly, Colton was wanting to pit that lap, so were we, and then Josef just ran into the back of us for no reason really and takes us out. It’s such a shame. Just a missed opportunity.

“I can’t talk for Josef, but obviously, he misjudged it and just ran into the back of our car. Colton was checking up really really bad, we were in third gear, low RPM, where usually you’re midrange in fourth gear. So clearly, (Herta) was really wanting to slow down very badly to stay tight and not let me get inside of him so he could pit, but still it’s very strange.

“It’s like his car just fell off the cliff and he didn’t have any front tires anymore, and it just set off that chain reaction, which we got the short end of.”

The caution flag flew a second time when James Hinchcliffe lost control of his No. 29 Honda and backed into the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2.

Hinchcliffe told Snider on NBCSN that he drifted up into the gray surface (from the traction compound used in NASCAR races) after losing aerodynamic handling when passed by Felix Rosenqvist.

“We were struggling really bad with vibrations, hanging on just trying to stay on the lead lap,” Hinchcliffe said. “I honestly didn’t know Felix was running up there. We just had no grip, got into the gray stuff, and that second lane is just undriveable.”

The green flag flew at 7:10 p.m. ET, more than 30 minutes early because of the threat of inclement weather.

After rain overnight and Saturday morning, track drying delayed the start of practice by nearly two hours. IndyCar elected to cancel qualifying as a result and set the field by points, putting Palou on the pole position as the points leader.

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.