INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — It took Scott Dixon 12 years to make a second trip to victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He’s already plotting a third trip next month.
The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner ended what had been a frustrating quest for a second win at the Brickyard, beating Graham Rahal to the checkered flag by 19.9469 seconds Saturday and claiming his first IndyCar Grand Prix title.
“It’s really nice to get another win at Indianapolis even though it’s not the big one,” Dixon said. “It is significant, man, to win at this place. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck and sometimes you need a clean race like we had today.”
The atmosphere at Indy was subdued.
Dixon donned a face mask as he raised his arms and pumped his fist inside the recently redone winner’s circle. The stands were empty and the usual celebratory noise was almost nonexistent.
But after three consecutive runner-up finishes in this race and a resume full of near-misses and bad luck on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval, Dixon was going to have some fun, and he appeared to savor one of the rare spoils of victory — giving the starting command for NASCAR’s inaugural Xfinity Series race on the road course.
Dixon couldn’t have scripted a better strategy for the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course, either.
The New Zealander opted to start on the slower black tires and maneuvered his way through the field after starting seventh. Then, just a few laps after pitting to put on the reds, Dixon got the break he needed when rookie Oliver Askew crashed into the outside wall as he tried to enter the front straightaway.
Dixon knew immediately he was in charge.
“We were in the right situation to go hard. It was a bit of a no-brainer,” he said. “Some of those guys were just sitting ducks with the tires they were on.”
Dixon controlled most of the second half of the 80-lap race, helped in part when pole-winner Will Power stalled in the pits.
And when he made a clean pass of Rahal, whose team-owning father, Bobby, won the Indy 500 in 1986, it was only a matter of time before Dixon chalked up his 48th career IndyCar win. Only A.J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52) have more.
“Dixey just had tremendous pace in the middle of the race,” Graham Rahal said.
He was so fast in the clean air, nobody could get close.
Dixon’s victory broke up Team Penske’s monopoly on winning this race — the first at the track since Roger Penske bought it from the Hulman family in November.
Power, of Australia, and Simon Pagenaud, of France, split the previous six races on the road course — the last five as teammates for the series powerhouse. Pagenaud finished third Saturday after qualifying 20th.
“We weren’t totally happy when we started the race, but we made up a lot of ground in pit sequence and gained a lot of ground that way,” Pagenaud said. “The yellow helped us a bit because we pitted five laps before.”
Still, he couldn’t catch Dixon, who has opened the season with back-to-back wins for the first time in his 20-year career, both in dominant fashion. He won last month at Texas.
Saturday’s race ended a one-month hiatus for the series and kicked off a busy schedule that features four races over the next two weekends. It was also the opener of an unprecedented IndyCar-NASCAR weekend that includes Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
IndyCar will return to Indianapolis in mid-August for Indianapolis 500 qualifying. The race, normally held on Memorial Day, is scheduled to be run Aug. 23, in front of fans. Race organizers have announced they intend to cap attendance at about 50% capacity.
The last two GP winners also won the 500.
“I’m pretty aware of those stats,” Dixon said. “And, yes, it’s been a long time since 2008. It’s definitely eluded us and we’ll try to get another one next month.”
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