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.