Dixon, Newgarden To Decide IndyCar Title In Street Fight

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 6 2020

Scott Dixon will take a shrinking points lead to St. Petersburg for the IndyCar Series season finale. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Momentarily booted out of the headlines by Will Power at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden will settle the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series championship later this month in a bona fide street fight.

Team Penske’s Power produced one of the most dominant performances of his career _ leading wire-to-wire from pole position _ to win the INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 2 Saturday on the IMS road-course. Leading all 75 laps in a caution-free race, Power nevertheless was forced to fend off a relentless Colton Herta around the 2.439-mile/14-turn IMS circuit. Herta closed a 1.5-second gap with 10 laps to go down to one-half second with five laps remaining, with Power managing to prevail by 0.8932-seconds.

Meanwhile, Newgarden (fourth) and Dixon (eighth) basically held serve by recording workmanlike top-10 finishes. Team Penske’s Newgarden, whose win in Friday’s Race 1 shaved Dixon’s lead to 40 points, now sits 32 points behind the Chip Ganassi Racing ace heading into the season-finale Oct. 25 at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Dixon must finish eighth or better on the 1.8-mile/14-turn temporary circuit to clinch his sixth Astor Challenge Cup even if Newgarden scores all 54 points available for a victory, pole, leading one lap and leading the most laps.

“It’s definitely been a trying last few race weekends between Mid-Ohio and Indy,” said Dixon, who has seen 85 points from his lead vanish since posting a massive 117-point gap after his most recent win Aug. 29 on the World Wide Technology Raceway oval in Madison, Ill. “I’m still mad at myself for making that mistake at Mid-Ohio (late-race spin/finished fifth in Race 2 won by Newgarden) and letting those points get away. As always, the IndyCar Series points title comes down to the last race, and even without the double points like we’ve seen before.”

Dixon’s Saturday at IMS got off to a nerve-wracking start after he qualified a disappointing 15th and almost immediately experienced contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Honda in Turn 7. That skirmish punched a hole into the left-side undertray of Dixon’s No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, affecting its aerodynamics.

Dixon and Newgarden, the two-time/reigning series champ, would emerge tied atop the standings at St. Pete if Newgarden scored maximum points and Dixon finished eighth. In that scenario, both drivers would have four victories this season _ but Dixon would win the tiebreaker by virtue of his two second-place finishes, compared to one for Newgarden.

“Look, we’re in it with a shot,” said Newgarden, driver of the No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet. “We’re going to go to St. Pete and try and win this championship. I just wish we were in a little closer position.”

On Friday, Newgarden started on the outside of the front row and led a race-high 34 of 85 laps en route to a caution-free victory over Alexander Rossi by a comfortable 14.2940-seconds. “If we had a phenomenal day like we had (Friday), we would be in really good shape,” Newgarden said. “We were just mediocre (Saturday). I think we had a car to compete with Will and Herta and (third-place) Rossi up there, but we just didn’t start up there high enough.

“With the start, I got kind of buried on the inside and I tried to get as much as I could on the outside, but then Santino (Ferrucci) came in running tight _ but he was fine. It just got tight, and I got pushed back a little too far. The key for us was being up higher earlier today. I just had to work for a lot just like Scott did. If we had a cleaner qualifying run, I think we really would have had a better day. I’m really thankful to Team Chevy. There were two wins for Team Chevy here this weekend.”

Power said he struggled for grip over the closing laps as Herta kept up the pressure. “It was a very tough battle,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Chevy. “I had to work very hard to keep him (Herta) behind. Marco (Andretti) didn’t make it easy. Just so happy to have Verizon and Chevy in Victory Lane again. Two Hondas trying to attack us there, but the Chevy had very good power and drivability.

“I’m over the moon to get another win, especially at this place. It was good not to get caught by a yellow or something strange like that. Great stops. We had a very good car; we improved on it from (Friday). Man, I just pushed so hard the whole race. Obviously, we had to save fuel but you’re still pushing while lifting early into the corners. A fantastic day, fantastic day.”

A 39-year-old native of Australia, Power earned the 61st series pole of his career Saturday morning to move closer to the legendary Mario Andretti’s record of 67 poles. Power’s ensuing 39th career INDYCAR win tied him for fifth on the all-time list with four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and former Penske star Al Unser. Power’s second wire-to-wire career NTT IndyCar Series win _ he led every lap at Barber Motorsports Park in 2011 _ made him the winningest series driver on the IMS road-course with four victories.

“Man, you talk about the names. Just amazing,” said Power, the 2014 series champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner. “These people are absolute legends of the sport, and I could have never imagined having my name among such unbelievable historic drivers. All of these guys I was a huge fan of when I was a kid. They’re kind of my heroes, so it’s really cool to have my name up there.”

Rossi finished third in his No. 27 Honda to score his fourth straight podium. Pato O’Ward rounded out the top-five in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Herta’s second-place result was his fourth career podium finish and second this season, to go with his Race 2 win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sept. 13.

“I think I kind of left everything out there,” said Herta, driver of the No. 88 Honda. “I used up a lot of my tires trying to catch back up to those guys. We just didn’t really have it at the end. I think I burned up the rears a little bit too much to the point where Will could hold me back. I do think we were a little bit faster than him, but unfortunately, we just didn’t put it together in the first stint until too far back, and that kind of hurt us going into the next two stints.

“I’m happy to be powered by HPD (Honda Performance Development). Obviously, we had another Andretti 2-3, two cars on the podium, so I’m really excited about that.”

Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 champion, started and finished a solid third for team-owner Michael Andretti. “It was the best qualifying we’ve had all year, so it’s good to be able so start up front, finally,” Rossi said. “I think our pace through the first two stints was good. I think me, Will and Colton were kind of in our own league, and it was kind of whoever could make the best last stint happen. We went with blacks (primary Firestone Firehawk tire) because we thought it was a good option. We were the only car that did blacks on the last stint.

“Ultimately, we tried something different _ I’m not mad about it _ but it was the wrong tire choice. Did it cost us the win? Maybe not. Did it cost us second? Probably. But, ultimately, four races, four podiums, and we’re pretty happy.”


Engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda have reached a new, multi-year contract extension with INDYCAR, taking their partnership into the end of the decade while ensuring stability and innovation for the NTT IndyCar Series.

“To be able to announce a long-term, multi-year extension with our two great partners is phenomenal,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “It’s an exciting time in INDYCAR with the innovations in the car, the new 2.4-liter engine and hybrid technology.”

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, introduction of the 2.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 with hybrid technology will be delayed until 2023. Working with Chevrolet and Honda, the new engine will give competitors an additional 100 horsepower, ultimately producing over 900.

“Honda welcomes this step to the future by INDYCAR, action that mirrors Honda’s efforts to develop and manufacture high-performance, electrified products that will meet industry challenges and delight our customers,” said Ted Klaus, president of Honda Performance Development. “At Honda, we race to develop our people, to innovate technologies and to engage fans. We are proud of our uninterrupted, 27-year leadership in INDYCAR and look forward to delivering a next-generation Honda 2.4-liter hybrid power unit with more than 900 horsepower.”

The newly designed powertrain system also will provide a departure from traditional, manual handheld starters and allow drivers to restart the car quickly should it stall on-track. This feature will benefit the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team as it reduces exposure time on track and add to the fan experience by potentially reducing the number of caution flags, leading to better flow and time of races.

“Chevrolet has enjoyed great success since joining the NTT IndyCar Series in 2012 with our 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 engine,” said Mark Reuss, president of General Motors. “We are thrilled to be moving forward with INDYCAR because it’s the perfect showcase for our engine technology, in the only open-wheel racing series in America, a high-tech, growing series that Roger Penske and his team are absolutely taking to the next level.”

INDYCAR continues to explore opportunities for an additional OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to join its mainstay engine partners.


Results Saturday of the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.439-mile/14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1.(1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 75, Running
2. (2) Colton Herta, Honda, 75, Running
3. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 75, Running
4. (9) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 75, Running
5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 75, Running
6. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 75, Running
7. (10) Graham Rahal, Honda, 75, Running
8. (15) Scott Dixon, Honda, 75, Running
9. (4) Alex Palou, Honda, 75, Running
10. (19) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 75, Running
11. (8) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 75, Running
12. (11) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 75, Running
13. (13) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 75, Running
14. (17) Takuma Sato, Honda, 75, Running
15. (16) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 75, Running
16. (6) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 75, Running
17. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 75, Running
18. (21) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 75, Running
19. (18) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 75, Running
20. (23) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 74, Running
21. (20) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 74, Running
22. (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 74, Running
23. (24) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 74, Running
24. (22) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 74, Running
25. (25) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 73, Running


Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 119.115 mph
Time of Race: 01:32:08.5228
Margin of victory: 0.8932-seconds
Cautions: None
Lead changes: None

Lap Leader
Will Power, 75

NTT IndyCar Series point standings _ 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 502; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 470; 3, Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, 401; 4, Will Power, Team Penske, 388; 5, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 376; 6, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 354; 7, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 328; 8, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 311; 9, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 305; 10, Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing, 294.


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. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Sept. 12 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 1, Lexington, Ohio (Will Power, Team Penske)

Sunday, Sept. 13 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 2, Lexington, Ohio (Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport)

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1 (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2 (Will Power, Team Penske)

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 6 2020
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