DETROIT – Scott Dixon had a Royal Sunday as he was honored by the Queen of England with the Order of Merit, followed by the 45th win of his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race No. 2.
Dixon was able to successfully rebound from crashing out of Saturday’s first race on lap 24 and finishing last in the 22-car field.
His Chip Ganassi Racing crew repaired his Honda overnight. After starting sixth, he was able to hold on as long as he could on the soft Firestone Red tires, stretching the stint longer than most of drivers. That put him on a three-pit stop strategy while the remainder of the top six drivers had to pit four times.
He was in the lead after a brief red flag stopped the race following a crash by his teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, late in the race. When the green flag waved with three laps to go, Dixon was able to fend off Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson by 1.9419 seconds. Team Penske driver Will Power was third, followed by two Andretti Autosport drivers – last year’s winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi.
Dixon won last year’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race No. 1. This year, he won the second race of the doubleheader.
“I felt like a bit of an idiot yesterday, especially clipping that inside wall,” Dixon said of his crash on Saturday. “Honestly, when I hit it, I didn’t think it was going to break the suspension. It did.
“Today was all about redemption. The team nailed the strategy, the car was super-fast. We were able to get the mileage we needed to, which was going to be really tough, with the exception of those last couple cautions.
“It’s pretty interesting how IndyCar right now is stopping the races and making sure they get proper restarts. It’s definitely great for the fans, a bit nerve-wracking for the drivers, I think. You just want it to be done. I would have been happy for it to end under caution.
“It wasn’t going to go that way.”
The key to Dixon’s victory was properly executing the pit stop strategy and getting as many laps as possible on the Firestone Red tires. This weekend’s batch of Reds were so soft, that many drivers complained they were shot after five or six laps. Dixon had to hang on to his set of Red tires for 14 laps before he dove down pit road to get on to the longer-lasting Firestone Black tires.
“The way the whole strategy played out, I saw the whole field pit on Lap 2, and I thought, ‘Oh, dear, I’ve seen this movie before, and it didn’t work out very well,’” Dixon recalled. “We knew we had to try and create the gap. We had to try and go as long as possible on the Reds, so at least we had only one more stop to go. We tried and we tried. They just fell off a cliff.
“I think we started losing almost four seconds a lap. (Spencer) Pigot had the same issue. We came in, dove into the pits, then the caution came out, which was definitely a little bit of a life saver.”
Just as Saturday’s race winner Josef Newgarden benefitted from a perfectly-timed pit stop in his win, moments before a caution, the same happened with Dixon. He had just pitted a few moments before Pigot veered across the track to head down pit road but hit the brakes right in front of Sebastien Bourdais.
The impact was huge, sending Bourdais’ Honda into the air in a giant wheelie. Bourdais had to drive the injured car around the track for a full lap because pit road was closed.
His Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan crew was able to repair the car and keep Bourdais from losing a lap. He finished ninth on the lead lap.
“Still even from that point, to get the fuel mileage, pretty big numbers we had to reach,” Dixon continued. “We knew that the other pack was going to try to stretch it out. They could run as hard as possible if they had some clear air. Never seemed to really go. The pack stayed quite tight.
“We had some issues there with Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) and Pato (Patricio O’Ward), slowing us down. I was kind of worried about that for a point there. He had the issue with his car, which I thought they were going to let go for a while, maybe just pull it in.
“That didn’t happen.”
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