ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – One outstanding prize eluding Scott Dixon in his illustrious Indy car career was a win at Road America’s picturesque and lightning-fast permanent road course. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver checked that box today, winning the KOHLER Grand Prix.
Dixon crossed the finish line 0.5779 of a second ahead of Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden to earn the 41st win of his impressive career. It moved the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion within one victory of tying Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list. It’s also the 13th straight season Dixon has won at least one race, extending his Indy car record.
“We raced as hard as we could,” Dixon said. “We had a little bit of luck go our way, we had good strategy, the pit stops were fantastic. These are the days you have to capitalize on.
“This is huge for Honda at a track that doesn’t suit our configuration, but the power and the (fuel) mileage really performed today. I’m just happy to be in the winner’s circle for the first time this year. At Road America, that’s mega.”
Driving the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, Dixon started fifth and made what wound up the decisive pass of the day on Lap 31. Relying on his softer Firestone alternate tires, Dixon zoomed past Newgarden, using the primary tire compound, on a restart and into the lead heading into Turn 1 on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn circuit.
“I think strategy-wise we definitely played it right with going to the red (alternate) tires at that point,” Dixon said. “The (primary) blacks definitely take a bit longer to come up, to get the grip that you need.
“Josef gave me the room. He obviously had a moment which made it pretty close and pretty tight with the way his car slid, but we both got through there. With other people, you probably wouldn’t have pulled that off. It was nice to race clean with Josef today.”
Dixon led 24 of the last 25 laps to win for the first time at Road America in his fourth start on the track named by most Verizon IndyCar Series drivers as their favorite road course. Dixon has now won on 11 of the 16 circuits on this year’s schedule.
His first win of 2017 allowed Dixon to stretch his championship lead to 34 points over last year’s titlist, Simon Pagenaud. It also makes Dixon the eighth different driver to win in 10 races this season, another indicator of the ultra-high level of competition within the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Team Penske drivers finished second through fifth in the 55-lap race. Trailing Newgarden across the finish line were Helio Castroneves (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet) in third place, Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) in fourth and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) in fifth.
“It stings a little bit coming home second when you feel like you have a winning car,” said Newgarden, who started third in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. “Scott was great today, so was Ganassi Racing. Those guys did a great job, certainly very deserving of the win. But that’s tough coming up a little bit short.
“I felt like when the caution came out and we were on the primary tires, Helio and Scott had the alternates, I thought this is probably not going to be very good on the restart,” Newgarden added. “It was hard to get temperature in them to get up to speed for the restart.”
Dixon, with eight top-six finishes in the first 10 races, has totaled 379 points through 10 races. Pagenaud is second in the standings with 345, Road America pole sitter Castroneves third at 342, Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato fourth with 323 and Newgarden fifth at 318.
Sato, battling a painful strained neck muscle, lost control of his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda on Lap 29 and hit the barrier in Turn 11, bringing out the first full-course caution. Tony Kanaan, in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda, crashed in the same area on Lap 46 after making light contact with the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda of Alexander Rossi. Kanaan was making his Indy car-record 275th consecutive race start.
The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, which airs live at 5 p.m. ET July 9 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.