Dixon Sips Fuel, Masters Strategy To Taste Victory at WWTR
No driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES makes the improbable possible more than Scott Dixon, and he did it yet again Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Dixon showed every bit of his masterful ability to save fuel and navigate traffic to win the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Sunday in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, earning his 55th career victory and second win this season.
He only needed three pit stops due to saving fuel, at least one fewer than the other 27 drivers in the field. That strategy was borne from necessity since Dixon started 16th in the 28-car field after incurring a nine-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after the last race, the Gallagher Grand Prix on Aug. 12 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He also won that race by saving fuel and mastering strategy after being spun into the infield grass during a Lap 1 incident.
“It’s all these guys, man,” Dixon said about his Chip Ganassi Racing crew. “Chip steers the ship. We took a pretty good grid penalty today. We had to go the alternate route, and it worked out perfectly. This team was perfect. They gave me the (fuel) number I needed to be getting, so massive thank you to everybody on the PNC Bank No. 9 crew.”
Pato O’Ward finished second in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. David Malukas placed third in the No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with HMD. O’Ward and Malukas were the only drivers on the lead lap with Dixon, whose margin of victory of 22.2256 seconds was the biggest for an INDYCAR SERIES race on the 1.25-mile WWTR oval.
Alexander Rossi finished fourth in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, with NTT P1 Award winner Scott McLaughlin rounding out the top five in the No. 3 Odyssey Batteries Team Penske Chevrolet.
“Scott Dixon did Scott Dixon today,” O’Ward said. “When they were telling me on the radio the 9 car is trying to make it to the end, he’s going to make it until the end. I was happy with the strategy today; I was happy with my car. But, yeah … Scott Dixon.”
Six-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Dixon also kept his hopes alive for a record-tying seventh title with the victory, as he trails series leader Alex Palou by 74 points with two races remaining. Teammate Palou finished seventh in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda and needs to lead by 55 points or more after the BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland next Sunday, Sept. 3 at Portland International Raceway to clinch his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in the last three seasons. Palou and Dixon are the only remaining drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup as season champion.
Dixon’s victory also ended Josef Newgarden’s run toward INDYCAR SERIES history. Newgarden entered this 260-lap race having won all four previous oval races this year and was trying to become the first INDYCAR SERIES driver to sweep all the oval races in a season with multiple circle-track races.
But two-time series champion Newgarden – who had won three straight races at WWTR dating to 2020 – drifted high in Turn 2 on Lap 211 after his final pit stop and hit the SAFER Barrier. He finished 25th in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet and was eliminated from title contention.
“I was just trying to catch up,” Newgarden said. “I knew we were going to lose to someone in fuel save, most likely Dixon or somebody. I was just trying to get through cars as quickly as I could when I pitted, and it didn’t work out. I got in the marbles, just a touch too high.”
Newgarden started from the top spot after NTT P1 Award winner and teammate McLaughlin was forced to start 10th after a nine-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after the last race. Newgarden led 98 of the first 102 laps as most teams evolved their pit strategies to four stops.
Dixon was on a different plan.
He took the lead for the first time on Lap 113 when Colton Herta pitted from the lead in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. By Lap 120, every driver had made at least two pit stops – except for Dixon.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 in the No. 11 Deloitte Honda, triggering the second and last caution period of the race on Lap 122. Dixon dove into the pits on Lap 125 under caution for his second stop, with Newgarden and O’Ward following suit.
Then Dixon’s mastery of saving fuel took control of the race. O’Ward and Newgarden pitted for the third time on Laps 165 and 167, respectively, while Dixon didn’t make his third – and final – stop until Lap 197, handing the lead to O’Ward.
But O’Ward pitted for the fourth and final time on Lap 214, giving the lead to teammate Rossi. But Rossi and then Herta had to pit for a fourth time within the next seven laps, and Dixon jumped to the front on Lap 221 and stayed there until the checkered flag despite keeping an eye on his fuel number and growing pressure from behind from Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Dixon led a race-high 123 of 270 laps.
Power had to make his final stop on Lap 249, and Dixon was home free from that point.