Scott Dixon came out victorious in a wild NTT IndyCar Series season opener on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Driving the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Dixon dominated after starting second, leading 157 of 200 laps and taking the checkered flag 4.411 seconds ahead of runner-up Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske).
It marks the fourth win for Dixon at TMS, and the 47th of his career. With the win, he tied A.J. Foyt’s record of 18 seasons with at least one IndyCar victory, extending his own consecutive years with a win record to 16.
“It was such a team effort,” said the five-time IndyCar champion. “We had a couple of mistakes there at the start (and) at points throughout the race, but we recovered. It was awesome. Honda — it was huge, man. The power out there, I don’t know what was with this PNC Bank car, but it was just so fast. Any situation we were in we could just go for it. Huge thanks to everybody involved. Bummed that the fans aren’t here; wish everybody was here to celebrate.”
After starting on the pole, reigning and two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) led 41 laps, but fought vibrations and fell down the running order before ultimately rising late to claim the third and final spot on the podium.
“I feel like we won the race with how bad we were,” said Newgarden. “My team fought. You know, if there’s anything, we have an incredible fighting spirit. We do everything we can to finish the race as best as possible, but we were just struggling. I mean, I was really struggling with the vibrations and the tires. We, for whatever reason … our setup philosophy kind of fell apart. It wasn’t favoring the race condition. And I just struggled — I was really struggling. So congrats to Scott. The Chip Ganassi Racing cars were amazing tonight. They definitely deserved to win.”
Zach Veach led the way for Andretti Autosport in fourth, followed by team owner/driver Ed Carpenter in fifth.
The final turning point came in the closing laps as Dixon engaged in a highly contested battle with teammate Felix Rosenqvist. After making their final pit stops during the last 15 laps, the CGR pair were fighting for the top spot while navigating through lapped traffic.
On Lap 191, Rosenqvist came up on James Hinchcliffe and moved to the high line off of Turn 2, where he drifted into the marbles, lost the handling of his No. 10 Honda and backed into the outside wall. He was classified 20th.
“I can’t blame others for whatever situation I have,” said Rosenqvist, taking responsibility for moving around lapped traffic. “Obviously, we came out on new tires. I don’t know, James was probably on really old tires there. It’s my judgment, now. I went to the outside, probably should not have done it. It’s one of those things. It’s like you sit there and you’re going like 40 mph slower than you want to go behind another car — it’s kind of tempting to just move up one lane, but it was so slippery.
“I just feel sorry for my guys. The NTT Data car was unbelievable tonight. It was really my breakthrough on ovals, I think. I had a really good shot there and then threw it away. Really disappointed.”
Conor Daly kept out of trouble and methodically worked through the field to finish sixth for Carlin. Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport) came away seventh, just in front of teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay (rebounding after going a lap down), rookie Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP) and Tony Kanaan (AJ Foyt Racing).
The first caution of the race occurred on Lap 37 involving rookies Rinus VeeKay and Alex Palou. The No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet of Veekay was exiting high off Turn 2 as the backend of his car snapped around and caught the rear of Palou (Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh).
There were ECU issues for the Andretti Autosport duo of Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi on pit road prior to the race, as well as for Graham Rahal, whose team actually had to push him back to the garage area and do a full reset. Due to the unapproved changes, along with re-entry for Rahal, each of them had to serve pit road penalties at the start of the race.
Takuma Sato was unable to start the race after suffering a crash in qualifying. Although there was roughly a two-hour window prior to work within, it wasn’t enough time for the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew to repair the primary car.
Apologies from the RACER.com team that we’re unable to bring you our usual in-depth photographic coverage from today’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Due to on-site personnel limits and protocols implemented by INDYCAR for the evolving COVID-19 situation, our photographic partner Motorsport Images has been precluded from taking part in this event. We are working to rectify this situation and to ensure that we can deliver the level of coverage you’ve come to expect and enjoy during the remaining races of the 2020 IndyCar season. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy our alternative visual take on events in The Lone Star State. As always, we appreciate your continued support of RACER.com.