Scott Dixon caught a nice break with a caution flag, but otherwise there was no catching the Kiwi who scored a dominant win in Saturday’s Indy Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dixon finished 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Graham Rahal and third-placed Simon Pagenaud as he upped his IndyCar victory total to 48 (only four behind Mario Andretti for second all-time) and made it 2-0 in 2020 for Chip Ganassi’s PNC Honda.
“I think we kind of got lucky with that caution but then we got the balance right and checked out,” said the 39-year-old veteran who made three pit stops to Rahal’s two. “We started pretty aggressive on blacks which was pretty tough but we hung with the leaders and had the pace.
“Definitely a little bit of luck but I think it also played into our strategy.”
Starting seventh on the harder black tires, Dixon abandoned his two-stop pit strategy and pitted on Lap 11 for the softer red tire compound. He was two seconds a lap quicker than the leaders after that which put him in the mix as polesitter Will Power paced the first 17 laps.
Rahal started fourth in the RLL Honda, slipped into third on the opening lap, and was leading the pack of two-stoppers (that included teammate Spencer Pigot, Conor Daly and Santino Ferrucci) when he made his initial stop on Lap 27 of the 80-lap distance.
Power was back on point after everyone had stopped but Rahal was only 10 seconds behind in fourth — facing one more pit stop while Dixon was looking at two more stops.
But then rookie Oliver Askew brought out the race’s only caution on Lap 36 when he pounded the front-stretch wall coming out of Turn 14. That ruined Rahal’s chances as well as other three-stoppers yet to make their second stop (Power, Josef Newgarden), but it was a godsend for Dixon.
“I thought our strategy was working perfectly,” said Rahal. “Coming out of the pits after that first stop and behind right behind Power and (Jack) Harvey — the guys I had been racing — and I kept thinking that when the pits cycled through for the last time I’d have a 25 or 30-second lead.
“Obviously that yellow nullified our strategy…”
On the Lap 42 restart, Rahal led Pigot, Daly and Dixon (who was on the quicker optional tires) but couldn’t hold off the eventual winner. Dixon took the lead on Lap 49 and immediately stretched it to nine seconds before Rahal could make it into the pits on Lap 56 for scuffed red tires.
By the time everyone cycled through for their final stop, Dixon was out in front by 13 seconds over Rahal and gradually increased it to 20 at the checkered flag.
“Dixie had tremendous pace during the late part of the race and I was struggling a little bit,” said Rahal. “But after Dallas, this feels extremely good for us.”
Pagenaud, who beat Dixon here last year had to charge from 20th to get on the podium in the Team Penske Chevy.
“We weren’t totally happy starting the race but we adjusted the car and it got better and better,” said the 2019 Indy 500 winner. “We kept our tires under us, made up a lot of ground in the pit sequence and the yellow helped us too. But in the end we had good pace.”
Colton Herta finished fourth and rookie Rinus VeeKay had a splendid run for Ed Carpenter to take fifth.
Power, who led 28 laps, stalled on his third and final pit stop and wound up 20th.