Dixon wins in IndyCar Series return to Pocono
LONG POND, Pennsylvania (AP) — Scott Dixon led a big day for Chip Ganassi Racing, leading a podium sweep for the team with a win Sunday at the IndyCar Series event at Pocono Raceway.
Dixon was followed by Ganassi teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti in IndyCar’s first race at Pocono since 1989.
Dixon’s 30th career IndyCar victory was his first of the season. He struggled racing up front all season and had led only one lap, at the Indianapolis 500.
He caught a big break when Tony Kanaan clipped Dixon’s car on a pass for the lead and was forced to pit road. Dixon dominated down the stretch of the 400-mile race and became IndyCar’s eighth different winner in 11 races this season.
“Going into this morning, I was not thinking we could win,” Dixon said. “The team definitely hasn’t given up, and you’ve got to hand it to Honda as well. I think fuel mileage was the key today. And we still had speed up front without having to save all the time.”
Andretti Autosport qualified three drivers on the front row. But James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay were involved in accidents and Marco Andretti faded over the final laps.
This was the first time Ganassi swept a podium in any form of racing: IndyCar, CART, NASCAR or Grand-Am. It was the 100th win in all forms of motorsports for Chip Ganassi Racing and the 200th in IndyCar competition for engine manufacturer Honda.
“I had no idea we’d go 1-2-3,” Ganassi said. “I was just hoping for a decent finish today.”
Dixon won for the first time since Mid-Ohio in August 2012 and Kimball matched his career-best finish.
“It’s been a long drought, man,” Dixon said. “It’s fantastic to be back in the circle. It means a lot. There’s no doubt the Honda teams have kind of been the underdogs recently.”
Kanaan lost his bid at the Triple Crown when he clipped his front wing on Dixon’s car. Kanaan connected with Dixon on a pass for the lead on the 107th lap. Kanaan had to pit three laps later and faded to the back.
He lost the lead — and a chance for $1 million.
With Pocono back on the schedule, IndyCar resurrected the “Triple Crown” challenge, a three-race competition for $1 million to the driver that wins the Indianapolis 500, Pocono and the season finale at Fontana. A driver who wins two of the three can win a $250,000 bonus from promotion sponsor Fuzzy’s Vodka, leaving Kanaan and Dixon still eligible for the prize.
Kanaan had no idea he hit Dixon and spent most of the rest of the race a lap down. He finished 13th.
Will Power was fourth and Josef Newgarden fifth. Points leader Helio Castroneves was eighth.
Andretti Autosport’s banner qualifying effort that saw three cars start on the front row was wasted before the second lap. Hinchcliffe’s bid for his series-high fourth win was derailed when he tagged the wall heading into the first turn of the first lap.
Hinchcliffe, who started third, limped as he walked out of his car. He said he just banged up one of his knees.
Hinchcliffe was cleared at the infield care center and worked the rest of the race in ABC’s broadcast booth.
“The car just snapped loose on me,” he said. “We went a bit aggressive on setup because we had an understeering car all week, and we didn’t want that in the race. Maybe we overstepped it a bit.”
Hunter-Reay started second and was running in the top five when he was involved in a pit road accident. Takuma Sato hit the right side of Hunter-Reay’s car near the entrance of pit lane. Hunter-Reay was forced to the garage with damage to his right front wheel and front wing. He returned about 20 laps later and finished 20th
Andretti, raised about 30 minutes away in nearby Nazareth, won the pole and was the hometown favorite. He dominated the race and led the most laps until fuel woes put him 10th. He ran out just after he crossed the finish line.