Dixon romps to victory in IndyCar season opener
Leading 157 of 200 laps, Scott Dixon, driving the #9 Ganassi Honda dominated the first race of the 2020 IndyCar season - the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway - Saturday night. Josef Newgarden led the first 33 laps from pole but once Dixon passed the #1 Penske Chevy he was never headed except for pit stops.
At the front of the field, pole qualifier Josef Newgarden took the early lead, but it soon became apparent that Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, had two of the quickest cars in the field. Passing Newgarden for the lead on Lap 32, Dixon was rarely headed for the rest of the night, at times opening up leads of five seconds or more on the fast, 1.5-mile TMS oval.
Simon Pagenaud was 2nd in the #22 Penske Chevy, 4.4109s behind Dixon but only caution flags made it look that close.
Newgarden came home 3rd while Zach Veach and Ed Carpenter rounded out the top-5.
"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."
“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.”
The first race of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES, delayed three months by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, took place without spectators and with limited crew members on a hot night in Fort Worth, Texas. With social distancing protocols preventing Honda engineers from assisting teams during the engine starting procedure on the grid, an issue with the spec series ECU resulted in Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi all going at least one lap down to the leaders in the opening laps. Who made that idiotic rule? They could wear face masks! Way to go IndyCar!
The toughest challenge Dixon had all night was from his teammate.
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."
The final shootout starting Lap 197 would see Dixon leading Pagenaud, Newgarden, Carpenter, Veach, Daly and Herta and the race ended under caution due to an incident on the backstretch as Dixon approached the checkered flag.
Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh rookie Alex Palou’s NTT IndyCar Series debut was short lived when he got caught up in an on-track incident on Lap 37 of the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday evening.
Palou was collected by fellow rookie Rinus Veekay who made contact with the wall and shot back down the track, clipping the left rear tire on the #55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh entry.
“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,” shared Palou.
“It’s a shame because the 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.”
Takuma Sato missed the delayed season-opening IndyCar race after his team wasn’t able to get the car repaired in time for the green flag Saturday night after a crash in qualifying.
Sato got high into Turn 1 on the high-banked Texas Motor Speedway on the start of his qualifying run, and slammed hard into the wall about 2 1/2 hours before the race started.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew worked feverishly to try to get the car ready the race, which followed practice and qualifying earlier in the all-in-one-day event.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, winner): "I can't thank the team enough, everybody at PNC. It's such strange times right now, and I just can't thank the team. It was such a team effort. We had a couple mistakes at the start and throughout the race, but we recovered. It was awesome. Honda, they were huge with the power out there. It was just so fast. Any situation we were in, we could just go for it. Huge thanks to everybody involved. Bummed that the fans aren't here. We wish everybody was here to celebrate." (About dealing with traffic late in the race): "It was more traffic I think. We could check out. It was just when we got to a few people that were going to be a little more challenging to pass. That definitely cropped up. Will (Power) was pretty tough, and I knew he was going to be. He was trying to stay on the lead lap. A bunch of those guys were. (Alexander) Rossi, I think, was going two laps down, so I don't know what he was up to. So, all in all, that's racing. We had to make some big, bold moves around the outside into Turn 1, especially on Felix (Rosenqvist) and on Josef (Newgarden), which was definitely a nice repay and a nice way to get back to the lead."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, second): "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. 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."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet, third): "Tonight was just a night for just hanging on for the No. 1 XPEL Chevrolet. 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."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, fourth): "Really, really good night here in the Gainbridge Honda. 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."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, fifth): "I was being pretty aggressive! I had a good shot at getting Josef (Newgarden) out of Turn 2 but got way loose. I'd rather go for a podium. The ECR team did a great job all night. and Chevy did a great job. It was obviously a track position race. If we got to the front, we could have challenged. We were back of the line but kept getting people for position, picking people off. Good to be back racing. Firestone did a good job under tough circumstances."
CONOR DALY (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet, sixth): "It was an awesome night, and I knew we had a great car in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. I messed up a little bit in qualifying and just under-drove it, but we made up for it with such a great race. The team had great pit stops, really incredible pit stops all night. The car was fantastic to drive, and it really gave me the confidence to go forward. We made such a great improvement from last year. To be honest, we probably should've been in the top five, but we just got a little loose in those last three laps and just couldn't hang onto it. I was driving it pretty sideways for final couple laps. I'm just super thankful to Carlin and Gallagher for giving me the opportunity to be here with the team and to be in the series. It's such a great way to start out the championship."
COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda, seventh): "I'm happy with that to start the year for the 88 Capstone Honda. I don't think we had the car to win today, but we got a lot out of it. Congrats to Zach (Veach). He did a really good job. I'll take a P7 from starting P14. We have some stuff to work on, but, again, great points to start the year and go off of this for the rest of the season."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda, eighth): "Incredibly unfortunate events got us at the start of the race. The team did a great job and turned the car around for qualifying. I got in it and drove the wheels off it -- up to P4 in qualifying. It ended up being a track position race, which would've really benefited us. And unfortunately, we had an issue with the electronics starting up and had to make a change. Because of the impound rule for the event, we got penalized twice. I'm not really sure why the cartoon anvil keeps dropping on the 28, but it's frustrating. Great job by the whole 28 DHL Honda team. We had a good car to represent our partners and our teammates great today, but we were robbed."
OLIVER ASKEW (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, ninth): "It ended up being a great day for Arrow McLaren SP and the No. 7 team. The whole crew and Chevrolet put a great car under me, and we were able to execute our game plan perfectly. To finish in the top 10 in my first-ever INDYCAR race is more than I could have asked for. We are carrying a ton of momentum into the Indy GP, and I think we will only get stronger as a team. This is a great way to begin the partnership between Arrow, McLaren and Schmidt Peterson, and I'm happy we could have a good result after months of preparation. Thank you to everyone at Texas Motor Speedway, INDYCAR, Roger Penske and the state of Texas for making this race happen."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 7-ELEVEN / AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet, 10th): "A difficult race. I had a little mistake in pit lane. First time in 23 years I got a speeding violation, and that cost us track position. From then on, I was just trying to minimize the damage because track position was extremely important. But I had a great qualifying, and at the end of the race, we actually got lucky and got the yellow at the right time, and we gained seven positions and finished in the top 10, so I'll take it."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 TRESIBA / AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet, 11th): "A disappointing result for a really strong night for the Tresiba Chevrolet team. The car was so good. We unloaded pretty well, and I think we made it a little bit better, qualified solidly and then the green flag came out and the car felt so good I was able to make moves and move forward. A small miscalculation in pit lane meant that we had to make an unscheduled pit stop, which was unfortunate which put us back, and we got caught up and ended up with a little bit of damage at the end of the race. Still two AJ Foyt Racing cars finishing 10th and 11th , I think it's a solid start to 2020. I can't wait to get back in the car for the next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race."
PATO O'WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, 12th): "I think it was a good first race for everyone at Arrow McLaren SP. Our first objective was to finish and the second objective was to get into the top 10. We were just two positions shy of getting into the top 10, but my teammate Oliver did a fantastic job and ended up in ninth. I ended up 12th because of a personal mistake during one of the pit stops. I think for not practicing much and coming into this track not knowing anything about it, coming out with a 12th -place finish after starting from the back is a huge positive. It's something that will give us momentum going to the Indy road course in a month. I think it was a great start for the whole Arrow McLaren SP team, our fans and our partners. It definitely left us wanting more."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 13th): "The Verizon Chevy was really good. It was just so hard to pass. Obviously, we had a mishap on a pit stop and that put us at the back, and, man, there were four cars that went 36 laps on the first stint. I feel like they should be penalized. It's unbelievable. That could be four more positions for me. It was a frustrating night. We had a mistake that put us in a bad place, and it's just unfortunate."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda, 14th): "Glad to get the season started for the 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb team. The car overall felt good today. We were able to make the adjustments we needed to in practice to be in the top five and had decent qualifying, but the race didn't go our way. This was a track position race, and we moved back with a couple of pit stops when we needed to move forward. With those and fighting through traffic, we didn't end where we had wanted."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda, 15th): "I think we came into this weekend with a lot of unknowns. We tried to get through a lot of things at practice. We probably gave away a couple spots in qualifying, but ultimately I think we did a good job considering we had a pretty difficult practice. We were pretty optimistic for the race, starting toward the front and being there for the night, but unfortunately couldn't get the car started on the grid because of an ECU issue. I was among a couple of other cars that that happened to. We had to start from the back and had a drive-through penalty. Then during the drive-through, there was an issue with the pit lane speed limiter, which followed up one drive-through penalty with another. From that point our night was pretty much over, but we tried our best to salvage what we could. The fact we ended up 15th was better than nothing, and I think the one takeaway is that the NAPA / AutoNation team did really well in pit lane. That was one of our big focuses in the offseason. This is a good step in the right direction, and we will be back in four weeks at Indy."
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda, 16th): "It's been a super busy and eventful day. We made some good gains in the race, and we had some genuinely good moments. As a whole, Texas is a hard place to come to. I've never been here before. I've never done an oval in an Indy car outside of Indy before, so it was a big ask coming here and cramming it all into one day. We also had a tough pit box, which made it hard to get in. It was a fine day, not exactly what we wanted, but we brought the car home in one piece."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda, 17th): "This one got away from us, for sure. Our car was fast and I think the guys did a great job, but we just had a lot of unforced errors and a couple of stop-and-go penalties. The car wouldn't start on the grid and needed to be reprogrammed. I said to the guys that the car was built perfectly; the car was fast today. I'm disappointed to come out of here with no points for either car considering we had fast race cars. Off we go to the GMR Grand Prix and turn this around."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 29 Genesys Honda, 18th): "We're all thrilled to be back racing. Hopefully it was a good show for the fans watching at home. For us, it was a disappointing day. We raced our way in and around the top 10 in those first two stints. We had some kind of wheel gun failure, not sure what the cause was, and it put us back a couple laps. From there we kept working on the car. It wasn't stellar over a long run. We were decent on short stints, but the guys were working on it and near the end we got pretty good. 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."
MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 19th): "It was a tough race, especially starting from further back than we would've liked. Going first in qualifying is always going to be difficult. But I think we were playing the patient game and trying to pick off guys throughout the race. It was working out really well, and we were running really good. The car felt really good out there. The No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing car was flying out there. Every time we had some free air, it was looking really good. The track today was a bit difficult to overtake. Offline had really low grip, so a couple times throughout the race I was stuck behind slower cars. But still, with 10 laps to go, we were looking strong for a top-eight finish, which would have been a really good start. But unfortunately we picked up a problem. I don't know exactly what the problem was, but we couldn't put in fuel in the last pit stop. So, with eight laps to go, we ran out of fuel. I lost a lot of laps and pretty much the race. A shame after a really strong night. A lot of positives, though. We had a really strong car and good driving with no mistakes. But it's disappointing to not get that top-eight finish that I think we deserve."
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 20th): "I can't blame others for whatever situation I have. Obviously, we came out on new tires, and I don't know if James (Hinchcliffe) was on really old tires there. It's my judgment. I went for the outside, and I probably shouldn't have done it. It's one of those things where you sit there and you're going like 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. I just feel really sorry for my guys. Our NTT DATA car was just unbelievable tonight. It was really my breakthrough on ovals, I think, and I had a really good shot there and I threw it away. Really disappointed. We pitted earlier and had clear track. I think we did one (lap) 215 mph and one (lap) 214 mph in a row there. We had a really good two out laps there. Not sure where that put us. Scott (Dixon) was really, super quick, as well. It was going to be close. But even a second place tonight, I would have taken it. I didn't feel like I was going crazy for the win. I just kind of wanted to roll in on a good finish with good points, and just one silly thing screwed everything up. Tough."
SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 SealMaster Honda, 21st): "We were having a great race. My SealMaster Honda was on rails. We started last and didn't get a chance to qualify. These guys worked up a sweat going into the race here, and we had a great car. We got a little antsy on that last stop. I pulled the shift a little too soon in the air, and when they dropped the car down to release me, something might have happened on the right rear. Man, you know, that's racing. We haven't been out here in a long time. Hats off to my crew, my team and everybody at INDYCAR for putting on this show. I'm excited to get back to it."
RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet, 22nd): "I got a little too high around Santino (Ferrucci), lost the rear in the marbles and made contact with Alex (Palou). 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."
ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda, 23rd): "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."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda, 24th): "I'm sorry to all the fans that I couldn't race. The boys did all they could to repair the car after the crash in qualifying. It's really hard to believe and understand what happened. It was before the actual timed lap; it was only the warm-up, and usually you build up speed and feel the car. When I approached Turn 1, I immediately lost the rear end. Perhaps I was maybe a little outside to make a better feeling of it, but unfortunately the track today was extremely slippery, which I really didn't know. Unfortunately I crashed into the wall. In normal circumstances, I think the boys would be able to quickly repair the car, but since it was a compressed one-day event and not enough time before the race, they did absolutely everything they could up until the last minute, so I want to thank them. I have been waiting for eight months to race and have to wait another three weeks now and am extremely disappointed. I also feel bad for my teammate Graham (Rahal). He had an absolutely fantastic qualifying and he drove the race so hard, but it was unfortunate neither car scored points today. I've been pretty disappointed today, but I have to stay focused and come back stronger in three weeks' time."
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