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Dixon Ruins Team Penske’s Weekend In Wisconsin

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 25 2017

Scott Dixon collected his first victory of the IndyCar season on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

After qualifying on Saturday, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon dejectedly labeled himself “best in class” behind the four-car Team Penske group. But best in class became best in field on Sunday as Dixon moved steadily forward from his No. 5 qualifying spot, took the lead just after half way and went on to win the IndyCar Series race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

The victory was the first of the season for Dixon and his first at the high-speed 4.014-mile Road America road circuit. It was the 40th win of his career.

“So pumped,” Dixon said in Victory Circle. “So pumped for the whole team.”

Dixon extended his points lead when he became the eighth different winning in the 10-race-old 2017 season.

“I’m just so happy,” he gushed. “This is awesome.”

Josef Newgarden of Team Penske finished second, a half second back.

“I feel good about what we had,” Newgarden, who led much of the early part of the race, said. “We had four strong cars all weekend with Team Penske. We did have the fastest lap, that’s pretty cool, but just disappointed we didn’t get it done.”

Penske drivers Helio Castroneves, who started from the pole, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power finshed third, fourth and fifth respectively.

“It’s a shame,” Pagenaud said of Penske not getting the victory. “We missed that one. The cars were dominant this weekend. It’s really a shame we didn’t bring a win for the team.”

“A little bit of it was strategy,” Dixon said of his surprise victory, “right tires at the right time so a lot of credit to the team. This is not a track that should be suited to us but everything just went well.”

When the race got under way, Dixon quickly broke Team Penske’s hammer lock on the top four spots in the field when he moved past Pagenaud, who started the race on primary tires, and into fourth place. Graham Rahal also jumped into the top four but was ordered by race control to give up a position for blocking.

Eight laps in, teams opting for a four-stop strategy – including Rahal, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, Conor Daly and J.R. Hildebrand – began to pit.

The three-stop teams began pitting on Lap 12. When the first scheduled stops ended, Castroneves and Newgarden remained first and second but Dixon had moved to third ahead of Power. Officials moved Rossi from fifth to fourth after they determined that he had been pushed off the track by Power during a passing attempt.

Power dropped to sixth place a couple laps later when he was penalized for blocking Pagenaud.

The race for the lead between Castroneves and Newgarden began to heat up 18 laps in when Newgarden moved in on the rear of his teammate’s car.

On Lap 20, Newgarden pulled even heading up the front straight and then passed Castroneves from the outside line in Turn 1. Once out front, the newest member of Team Penske began to pull away.

By Lap 22, the gap was 2 seconds and growing. There was more bad news for Castroneves as Dixon began closing in from behind.

On Lap 29, just as scheduled pit stops concluded, Indy 500-winner Takuma Sato left the track in the high-speed “Kinks” section of the track and out came a full-course caution. Up front, Newgarden led, Dixon was second, Charlie Kimball was third, Castroneves was fourth and Pagenaud fifth.

During the caution, the four-stop-strategy cars pitted.

On the Lap 31 restart, Dixon jumped past Newgarden for the lead heading through Turn 1. Castroneves also moved past Newgarden for second place.

Once out front, Dixon took his turn at building a gap. By Lap 33, he was 3-seconds ahead of pole-sitter Castroneves.

On Lap 42 of the 55-lap race, Dixon, with a 4-second lead, pitted for the final time. When the pitting concluded, Dixon’s lead was 2.5 seconds over Newgarden and both were on soft red tires.

But with 10 laps to go, Kanaan left the track and slammed the wall in “The Kinks” section. Out came the yellow flag and gone was Dixon’s big lead.

On the restart, which came with seven laps to do, Dixon was perfect and kept his lead. Behind him coming out of Turn 1 were Newgarden, Castroneves and Pagenaud.

With six laps to go, Newgarden, using cached push-to-pass power, began to close on the lead. With two laps to go, Dixon’s lead was .8 seconds. At the white flag, it was .6 seconds.

On the final lap, Newgarden could not get into position to challenge and Dixon had his win.

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Results Sunday of the KOHLER Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 4.014-mile Road America, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (5) Scott Dixon, Honda, 55, Running
2. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 55, Running
3. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 55, Running
4. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 55, Running
5. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 55, Running
6. (10) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 55, Running
7. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 55, Running
8. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 55, Running
9. (7) Max Chilton, Honda, 55, Running
10. (19) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 55, Running
11. (13) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 55, Running
12. (14) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 55, Running
13. (15) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 55, Running
14. (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 55, Running
15. (21) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 55, Running
16. (18) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 55, Running
17. (17) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 55, Running
18. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 54, Running
19. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 54, Running
20. (9) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 53, Running
21. (16) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 44, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 123.431 mph
Time of Race: 1:47:18.9870
Margin of victory: 0.5779 of a second
Cautions: 2 for 3 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Castroneves 1-12
Newgarden 13-14
Castroneves 15-19
Newgarden 20-30
Dixon 31-42
Kimball 43
Dixon 44-55

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 379, Pagenaud 345, Castroneves 342, Sato 323, Newgarden 318, Power 316, Rahal 307, Kanaan 273, Rossi 271, Jones 254.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 25 2017
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