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Dixon Joins IndyCar’s Elite 50-Win Fraternity

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2020

Driver Scott Dixon’s red-hot 2020 season continued on in Madison, Ill. on Saturday.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

In terms of his brilliant INDYCAR career, 40 has become Scott Dixon’s new 50.

Dixon joined open-wheel icons A.J. Foyt Jr. (67 wins) and Mario Andretti (52) as the only drivers to record 50 or more career victories Saturday afternoon, holding off a relentless Takuma Sato to win the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 1 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Dixon scored his series-leading fourth win in eight races this season by 0.1404-seconds over Sato, reversing the order of finish from last Sunday’s 104th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dixon’s MOV over Sato was the second-closest INDYCAR finish at the 1.25-mile oval outside St. Louis, where that pair of 40-something veterans distanced themselves from 21-year-old Pato O’Ward in the closing stages.

“Yeah, I guess the last couple weeks it’s been some of the older guys (winning),” said Dixon, who turned 40 last month. “What is Sato, 45 now? (Sato is 43). Will Power is turning 40. A few of us lingering around that age group.

“I don’t know, man. I don’t feel any different to when I was 20. I think the hangovers get a little worse, which is one big difference. I try to stay clear of those a little more these days.”

Good thinking, especially with Race 2 looming Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. EDT, NBC Sports Network and the INDYCAR Radio Network). Qualifying for Race 2 was determined Saturday at the facility just across the Mississippi River from the famous Gateway Arch. Sato, the two-time/reigning Indy 500 champ from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, will lead the field alongside Josef Newgarden, the two-time/reigning series champ from Team Penske. Dixon, the five-time series champ from Chip Ganassi Racing, will roll off the grid sixth.

“Again, I’m so lucky to work with the team that I do,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Honda. “They inspire me every day, their competitiveness. Chip, Mike (Hull), everybody involved at this team, they never lift, they never want to stop. That’s what keeps me going, keeps me driving as hard as I can. Just so happy for this team. Last week at Indianapolis was a bit of a bummer.”

The Indy 500 ended under caution after a crash involving Spencer Pigot, Sato’s RLL teammate, on Lap 195 of 200. Dixon, running second to Sato, felt a red flag stoppage to clean debris and restart would have been the proper way to determine the outcome of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“Yeah, definitely didn’t enjoy last week,” Dixon said. “The situation definitely called for a red flag. I didn’t think they (Sato’s team) were going to make it on fuel. Kind of a tough one to swallow I think in both scenarios. That’s Indianapolis. Finished second, I think, four or five times there now. Man, a lot of times I think you’d just rather finish third or fourth or fifth.”

Dixon averaged 143.522 mph Saturday after starting third. Rounding out the top-five behind Dixon and “Taku” were O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet; Colton Herta in the No. 88 Honda and Marcus Ericsson in the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The race-winning sequence was set into motion during the final round of pit stops on Lap 163, when Dixon pitted from second _ directly behind leader O’Ward _ and beat O’Ward off pit road. Dixon expanded his lead over O’Ward as the rest of the leaders cycled through green flag pit stops. Sato pitted from the lead with 25 laps to go as he attempted to overcut the leaders by staying out later than the rest of the field, handing the lead to Dixon for good on Lap 176. On that final stop, Sato was slowed slightly by a sluggish right rear tire change.

Sato was undeterred. The defending winner at WWTR, Sato merged back in third and started charging. Sato made and completed a daring, outside pass of O’Ward for second in Turn 1 with 16 laps to go as he chased down Dixon.

“Honestly, I thought we touched,” said O’Ward, the native of Monterrey, Mexico, who was named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year following his sixth-place finish at IMS. “I didn’t think he was going to throw it outside, but he did. He didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, I think that was racing. I’m sure fans would have loved it. Yeah, just right when he was on the outside, I had to step on the brakes and back out. If I didn’t do that, we were both going to be in the wall.”

Sato closed the gap to three-tenths of a second in the closing laps but was unable to challenge Dixon for P1. “Obviously, the team did a fantastic job,” said Sato, driver of the No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda. “From last week, we carried a lot of momentum. We lost some places at the beginning of the race. I wasn’t entirely comfortable in the car. But we were strong. Big congrats to Ganassi and Dixon. Fantastic win.”

Dixon continued to solidify his position as the greatest driver of this generation with win No. 50 _ a milestone moment celebrated by his team with a banner and photo op in Victory Lane. 

“Yeah, 50 is a great number,” Dixon said. “I’d like to think there’s 50 more, but that might be pretty tough. We’ll keep our head down and we’d love to definitely get a lot more wins here in the next few years. Yeah, we’re in the business of winning, so that’s what we got to do.

“It means a lot for me, means a lot for my family, a lot for all the people that enabled me to get here _ all the investors from New Zealand that made this possible many moons ago. This is what it’s all about.

“I can’t thank Honda and HPD (Honda Performance Development) enough. I’m proud to be powered by them and what they’ve done, especially this year, is just phenomenal, and how quick their cars have been.”

Dixon padded his championship lead to 117 points over Newgarden, who finished 12th in the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet.

The race began with an incident that damaged multiple cars. As Power led the field to the green flag in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, several drivers bunched up and triggered a multi-car wreck just before the start/finish line.

Rookie Alex Palou in the No. 55 Honda and 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet jumped out of line to avoid hitting the cars in front of them, resulting in a major pile-up.

Rookie Oliver Askew, driving the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, hit Pagenaud from behind and turned him into 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 Honda. The wreck also collected Marco Andretti in the No. 98 Honda, Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 Chevrolet and Zach Veach in the No. 26 Honda.

“I thought at least a top-five was possible _ and we didn’t even get to do 100-feet,” a dejected Rossi said. “There’s just no way around the disappointment. I was going in a straight line (coming to the green) and just got drilled. We just got hit. It sucks, really. Everything about this year has felt like a disaster, so we’ll see how the rest of it goes.

“Fortunately, Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Colton (Herta) were on a similar kind of setup as to what I was on, and the race went OK for them, so we’ll take what we can from that for tomorrow. We still want to win races, and that’s what we’re here for. But in the big scheme of things, there’s a lot bigger issues in the world right now in 2020, so this is relatively minor. But it still sucks.”

Palou, whose car wasn’t damaged, and Askew were assessed penalties for the incident.

Once the race went green on Lap 13, Power held the lead until a round of green flag pit stops on Lap 62, handing the lead to Dixon for the first time. O’Ward beat Dixon off pit road and led the race from Lap 68 through Lap 161.

“Yeah, I think we had a very solid run today. We led some laps,” O’Ward said. “We were out on front for basically like a good 70 percent of the race. Towards the end Dixie got us in the pits, in the pit sequence. We were trying to get him but we didn’t have enough pace to get up to him and pass him. Sato with fresher tires behind us passed us and from there I was just kind of running on my own. I don’t know what specifically Dixon did in the end because it was a pretty massive difference of pace that I just couldn’t keep up.

“We will analyze, check for (Sunday), hopefully be closer to the end of the race. I think we’ve built something very strong, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store because I feel like there’s a ton of potential. There’s a lot of very smart people here doing the strategies, the performance, the engineering. So many people here that I truly feel like they have, every person has their own kind of task, and every task builds to success. I think so far we’re all working very, very well together.

“There’s so many little things that go into an INDYCAR race to finish like in the top-five. Your in-and-out laps have to be very strong. Your pit stops have to be very strong. Consistency, tire management, a lot of factors that go into it. Whenever you are learning to master that, you’re getting results within the top- five, top-three, it’s like, ‘OK, we can do this.’ I’m sure a win will fall soon. I sure hope it does.”

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Results Saturday of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 1 NTT IndyCar Series event on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (3) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
2. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
3. (2) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (10) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
5. (4) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 200, Running
6. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
8. (12) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 200, Running
9. (21) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 200, Running
12. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (18) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
14. (15) Oliver Askew, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (11) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
16. (20) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 200, Running
17. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 198, Running
18. (22) Graham Rahal, Honda, 124, Mechanical
19. (13) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 67, Contact
20. (17) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 3, Contact
21. (23) Zach Veach, Honda, 2, Contact
22. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 0, Contact
23. (19) Marco Andretti, Honda, 0, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 143.522 mph
Time of Race: 1:44:30.7944
Margin of victory: 0.1404-seconds
Cautions: 2 for 25 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders
Power, Will 1 – 61
Dixon, Scott 62 – 64
Rosenqvist, Felix 65
Ferrucci, Santino 66 – 67
O’Ward, Pato 68 – 161
Sato, Takuma 162 – 175
Dixon, Scott 176 – 200

NTT IndyCar Series point standings _ 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 386; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 269; 3, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 256; 4,Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 248; 5, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 226; 6, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 223; 7, Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, 221; 8, Santino Ferrucci, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, 196; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 190; 10, Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing, 182.

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UPDATED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill.

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2020
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