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Dixon earns INDYCAR season-opening win at Texas

Scott Dixon continued his drive into INDYCAR history, powering away from the field on a late restart to win the Genesys 300 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway and adding to his growing list of superlatives.

Five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Dixon drove his No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to a victory over the No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet of Simon Pagenaud. Reigning series champion and 2019 Texas winner Josef Newgarden, who earned the NTT P1 Award for winning the pole earlier in the day, placed third in the No.1 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet. The race ended under caution due to an incident on the backstretch as Dixon approached the checkered flag.

Dixon waved goodbye to the field on a restart on Lap 197 of the 200-lap race to earn his 47th career INDYCAR victory, just five wins short of tying Mario Andretti for second on the all-time victory list. A.J. Foyt is No.1 with 67 victories. Dixon, who started second, averaged 175.201 mph and led 157 laps for the victory.

The race on the 1.5-mile oval was the season opener for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of racing for nearly three months. This event took place without fans as a health-and-safety precaution.

"It was such a team effort," Dixon said. "Honda, the power – it was huge. 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 the fans aren’t here. Wish everybody was here to celebrate."

Pagenaud finished second after chasing the setup on his car race long.

"We knew coming in it was going to be a tough situation for the INDYCAR SERIES putting together the race and making sure we could put on the show to entertain people." said Pagenaud "That’s what we do; that’s what this business is about. I’m very proud to carry the DXC Technology colors here; you know, they are from Texas. It was just an intense night. We had balance changes – some stints we went really loose, one stint we had understeer. It was very difficult to understand, so I had to be really cognizant of that with the adjustments in the race car. At the end, we managed to take some front wing out, and it came back to us and it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it."

Zach Veach finished fourth in the No.26 Gainbridge Honda, tying his career best. Ed Carpenter rebounded from a spin during practice earlier during this one-day event to round out the top five in the No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

"Really, really good night here in the Gainbridge Honda." said Veach "I wanted to start 2020 off good because 2019 was so rough, and we came out here to Texas and got a top-four and started fifth. I’m just very happy. This kind of momentum will be great to go into the Indy GP and hopefully have the season we’ve been needing to have. The guys did an awesome job. My engineer Mark Bryant, the car was amazing and all my pit crew: They were awesome for everything, and that played a big part in a race with not many passes. I’m just happy and a big thank you to Andretti Autosport."

The win added to the impressive list of Dixon’s accomplishments as he enters his 20th season of INDYCAR competition. Besides earning his 47th career win, he now has at least one victory for 16 consecutive seasons, a streak that started in 2005.

It appeared late in the race that Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist would duel for the victory, as they were the class of the 23-car starting field.

Dixon led by nearly six seconds early in the race, but Rosenqvist pulled to within four-tenths of a second with 35 laps to go as Dixon struggled to find the grip to pass the lapped No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda of Alexander Rossi.

Both Dixon and Rosenqvist got past Rossi on Lap 169. Two laps later, Dixon was forced to check up behind the No.98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda of Marco Andretti, letting Rosenqvist stay in touch in his No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The two cars raced in unison around the high-banked oval for the next 16 laps before Chip Ganassi Racing called Rosenqvist to the pits for his final stop on Lap 186. Dixon followed suit with his last pit stop on Lap 189 and hustled from pit lane to stay ahead of Rosenqvist when re-entering the back straight from pit lane, albeit in traffic.

Rosenqvist was flying, having turned the fastest lap of the race – 215.025 mph – on Lap 189. But he, too, got stuck behind traffic while pursuing Dixon after Dixon’s final stop.

Desperate to stay in touch with Dixon, Rosenqvist’s car wiggled on Lap 191 while passing James Hinchcliffe’s No.29 Genesys Honda in Turn 2. Rosenqvist nearly caught his car, but it did a half-spin and hit the SAFER Barrier at the exit of Turn 2 with the left side of the car, ending his night and triggering the last of four caution periods. He was unhurt.

"I can’t blame others for whatever situation I had," Rosenqvist said. "We came out on new tires. I don’t know if James was on really old tires. It’s my judgment. I went for the outside. Probably shouldn’t have done it. It’s one of those things where you sit there, and you’re going 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 just so slippery, and I just feel very sorry for my guys.

"The NTT DATA car was really unbelievable tonight. It was my breakthrough on ovals, I think. I had a really good shot there and threw it away. I’m really disappointed."

Hinchcliffe added, "That last stint we were pushing it all the way to the end, and it got loose on me. We got involved with that deal with Felix (Rosenqvist). I was just super loose, and I was trying to save the car, and he went on the outside. I tried to stay out of it. I feel bad for him. It’s a tough break when you’re running that well. We’ll regroup and attack at the Indy GP."

Dixon never was threatened on the ensuing, and final, restart on Lap 197. He ripped away from Pagenaud and Newgarden and cruised to Victory Lane, turning the fastest lap by a leader of the race – 214.107 mph – on the final circuit.

 

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Newgarden started from the pole and led the first 31 laps. Dixon passed him for the lead on Lap 32 and led 157 of the next 168 laps. He took the lead for good on Lap 91.

"Tonight was just a night for just hanging on for the No. 1 XPEL Chevrolet." said Newgarden "We came home with a podium finish, and that is what we needed to do. You have to have nights like this. Tonight was a night to swallow your pride and get the best out of what you got. If I can go out there and win the race, I’m going to try and do it. But tonight wasn’t that night. We weren’t good enough throughout a tire stint to challenge Scott. He was just so, so good all night. But that is what this team is capable of doing. They are the best in the business and give me everything they can to put me up front. Now, we just got to regroup I’m not pleased with third because I want to go win a race. But tonight, third place for us almost feels like a win."

NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookies Rinus VeeKay and Alex Palou both were unhurt in a crash on Lap 38, and veteran Charlie Kimball also was uninjured in a crash on the frantic final lap of the race.

"I got a little too high around Santino (Ferrucci), lost the rear in the marbles and made contact with Alex (Palou)." said VeeKay "It’s very, very unfortunate. I expected my debut to be a lot different. I’m so sorry to the team. We’ll get better from here. I had very limited time, a lot of learning, but unfortunately I crashed twice. I will have to sleep and think about it for a month. But our Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy was good."

Palou added, "I don’t think there was much I could have done. In hindsight, I should have gone high instead of going low, but that’s easy to say now. I have to watch the replay. Maybe I could have done something different, but not with the oval experience I have right now. It’s a shame because the Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh car was really good. I was getting comfortable and getting up to speed. Every lap I was getting better and better and keeping up with the cars in front. I was trying to get the car balanced right for the last stints. Unfortunately, we were not able to do that."

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, July 4 on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race results

06/07/20

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