Dixon turns IndyCar GMR GP into a borefest
Until today only a Team Penske IndyCar driver won the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis the previous six years, and it appeared that would be the case again this year with Will Power dominating the race from pole. But an untimely caution and IndyCar's idiotic closed pit rule shafted the two Penske cars up front (Power and Newgarden) and put Scott Dixon near the front when the green flew.
Once he passed Graham Rahal and in clear air he pulled away to a 20-sec lead unchallenged and turned the race into a borefest.
Dixon credited a minor setup change made by his engineer Mike Cannon during his second pit stop for improving the handling of his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and the five-time series champion the pulled away during the second half of the 80-lap contest to a nearly 20-second margin of victory over fellow Honda driver Graham Rahal.
For his part, Rahal was able to make a two-stop strategy work to his advantage, with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver running especially strong during the middle third of the race, where he led 18 laps and was in contention for the victory. But when the sole caution flag of the race came out on Lap 36, the advantage of Rahal’s two-stop strategy was negated. In the closing laps, Rahal fought off a strong challenge from defending race winner Simon Pagenaud to secure the second step on the podium.
Graham Rahal held off last year's winner Simon Pagenaud for 2nd while Colton Herta and Rinus Veekay rounded out the top-5.
It was Dixon's 2nd win in a row to start the 2020 season and his 48th career win, 3rd behind AJ Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (53).
“So good to be racing here again at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Dixon said. “We’ve had so many runner-up spots here on the road course. We got lucky. The strategy, the team just nailed it. We got lucky with that caution. But as soon as we got the balance right, the PNC Bank No. 9 just checked out.”
When the caution flew, pole sitter Will Power led Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden by 3.6495 seconds. But Power, Newgarden and other leaders had only made one pit stop, while Dixon made his second pit stop on Lap 33, two laps before the caution.
So, when Power, Newgarden and Jack Harvey dove into the pits for their second stops under caution, that elevated Dixon in the running order. Rahal led on the restart, with Spencer Pigot and Dixon second and third, respectively.
Dixon got around Pigot and then passed Rahal in Turn 1 for the lead on Lap 48. After that, he lost the top spot only when making his third and final pit stop on Lap 55. Dixon took the lead for good on Lap 62 after the leaders cycled through their final stops.
Then Dixon inexorably pulled away from Rahal and the rest of the field in a tour de force, delivering Chip Ganassi Racing its 110th INDYCAR victory. Dixon also became the first driver besides Pagenaud and Power to win this event, as the Team Penske teammates each have three victories in the IMS road course race that made its debut in 2014.
1st – SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we got a little lucky but it also played into the aggressive strategy we had with electing to take the primary Firestone tires at the start with everyone else on reds. The yellow came out right in our window and it hung out the leaders but we definitely had the pace. We made some simple changes to keep up with a cooling track but after that, the PNC Bank car was on rails and we just took off.”
2nd – GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): “I thought the strategy was honestly working perfectly. Honestly, with the two-stop coming out of the pits after the first stop and still being right with Power and Harvey and all the good guys, the guys I was racing at that time, all I kept thinking was when the pits cycled through for the last time, we'd have about a 25- or 30-second lead, but obviously the yellow came out and kind of nullified our strategy because then everybody just got to pit under yellow and then there was just one more to go. But obviously, Dixie (Scott Dixon) had tremendous pace during the late part of the race. I was on black tires struggling a little bit. The Fifth Third Bank car was great today. I thought our guys did a tremendous job. It's a shame for Spencer; he was right up in the battle, as well. But for our team after Dallas, this feels extremely good for us.”
3rd –SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “Yesterday was not what we wanted with qualifying. We unloaded well but went the wrong direction with this basically new car. But it was a negative that became a positive. I think it sets us up for the season really early on knowing what we need for the car. We weren’t totally happy when we started the race and adjusted the Menards Chevy and got better and better. We were also able to keep the tires underneath us really well. We made a lot of ground under pit sequences by really, really pushing really hard when everybody pitted and we gained a lot of ground that way. The yellow helped us a bit because we pitted about five laps before so that did help us. In the end, we had good pace. It was really hard to move the car so thanks to all the extra training I put in since it was a really physical race. I also want to say a big thanks to Chevy because that was a lot of horsepower in the straightaway and helped me pass all of those people. Just a big thanks to them.”
4th – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda): “Overall solid day, we didn’t quite have the pace of the guys that finished ahead of us (Dixon, Rahal, & Pagenaud). Finishing P4, kept the car clean, brought it home clean – super happy with that. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace to win but we did what we could and that was P4. Thank you to Gleaners for joining us this weekend and to everyone who supported us. It was a good weekend for points, and I hope we keep this momentum going forward.”
5th – RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 Sonax Chevrolet): “I drove the best race of my whole career! The team just gave me a great car, great strategy to go from P18 to P5. I drove my butt off! I have never been this tired after a race, but that’s what you get when you give 110 percent. Thank you to my guys and everyone at SONAX and Autogeek. I’m the happiest guy on earth right now!”
6th – MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a really good race for us to be honest. We had really good pace and as you saw with Scott’s performance I think it’s clear our cars have unloaded very fast to start the season. We had a tricky first few laps but we managed to hold position which was good. The Huski Chocolate car was strong and we had good pace overall. We ran into some fueling problems on either the second or third stop but those things happen and we carried on. I think that cost us a shot at the podium because we would have been in front of Simon Pagenaud and he finished top three. I think we recovered well from there and I’m just happy about how the cars are performing and the tremendous effort the team is putting forth to start the 2020 season.”
7th –JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet: “It was a tough day - really disappointing. We got hosed today by the caution, both Will [Power] and myself. I felt like we had a pretty strong chance of being able to finish 1-2 and it’s a shame to miss it by just a little bit. We almost pitted right before it came out but went one lap longer. I guess it was a good day in reality. We got up to the front there with Will running 1-2 and then wound up in the back with the yellow. From there we just tried to claw back our way as much as we could from 15th or 16th. It was just a tough pill to swallow in the middle there. Our XPEL Team Chevy car was good. I felt really proud of us this weekend and thought we made nice little baby steps every session and we seemed to be getting better. I thought we were relatively decent compared to Will who seemed to be the best this weekend. It was awesome to have XPEL on the car this weekend and at the end of the day it was just a shame we weren’t able to convert and finish the race 1-2.”
8th– PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): "I think every day where you can improve positions from your qualifying, is a good day. We got some solid points but we are not quite where we want to be or where I want to be. If you are in this championship to be finishing eighth, you are here for the wrong reasons. We want to win, we want to be on the podium. The Arrow McLaren SP cars had the pace, we just didn't quite get everything out of our third stint which cost us a lot of track position and we had to make that up in the end. I think overall, we finished, we improved, we were on pace, and we have some good information to improve for Road America."
9th – SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 MOUSER MOLEX Honda): “We finished ninth today and we were coming. Our race car was very good. I am really proud of the whole Coyne Vasser-Sullivan team. In this morning’s warm-up, we got the Mouser Molex Honda back up to speed like we had in practice on day one. We bobbled the first pit stop, but we raced it back to finish 9th. That was really strong. I think we will have a great car when we come back in October.”
10th– TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic One Cure Honda): “First of all, huge congrats to my teammate Graham. He did a hell of a job over the event. I know he wanted to win but second was great. My race was a difficult one. Yesterday we found an issue with the powertrain and lost over two-tenths of a second down the straight which was huge in qualifying which put us in the back. Today I had suspension failure around Lap 1 probably. That’s why I went straight to the back. Then the yellow came at the right time when we needed to pit so I needed a splash of fuel. We had a difficult race but in the end we fought back from 26th place to finish tenth, which was good. With a damaged car, I think it was a great job by the team. Obviously, Graham did a great job so I think the whole team is moving forward and I’m looking forward to next week.”
Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with finishing position):
MARCO ANDRETTI (Finished 22nd – No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “This was a tough weekend for us on the 98 side. We had a wheel issue in morning warmup and lost that session – so we didn’t really get a chance to finish out our planning before the race. We did what we could and had finally cracked the top 10 mid-race and then had contact and got put into the wall. From there we drove with bent toes and just held on to finish. Was hoping for more, but we’ll come back swinging at Road America next weekend.”
OLIVER ASKEW (Finished 26th – No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): "It was really unfortunate and unacceptable, to be honest, to have a result like that. I will have to check with the guys to see exactly what happened but after watching the replay, I just lost the rear of the car. It was toward the end of a stint so the rears were starting to go which caught me off guard. I'm really sorry to the entire Arrow McLaren SP team but we will move on and push for a good result in Road America next weekend."
MAX CHILTON (Finished 16th – No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “ We showed so much promise this weekend, at least up until about halfway through the race when that yellow came out and we were running eighth. I think if you can keep up in eighth for half of the race, you’ve obviously got the pace to stay there. Annoyingly we got shafted by that yellow. We were one of the last to pit in that cycle, so we came out near the back and we had to use the black tires at some point so we went even further back. We were quick toward the end with the fresh red tires. Rosenqvist, Hunter-Reay and I all picked off a few and gained a few positions. Then we picked up a rear shim problem with 10 laps to go. We lost our rear shims, so my steering went out and I couldn’t really attack. I think we should’ve easily had a top-10 finish, but it just didn’t work out in our favor today. The good thing is that the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet has been quick the last few races, so we know the car is strong heading into Road America this weekend.”
CONOR DALY (Finished 12th– No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevy): “We had a really good start; really, a good first half of the race. I was happy with the car at the beginning, but fuel saving was tough for us. We had a bit of a difficult strategy call to make from there. But you know what, we put some points on the board, we hung with it, we're still in the fight. Happy to get Race 1 with the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet under our belts!”
JACK HARVEY (Finished 17th – No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “Overall I’m disappointed with our race. If the yellow flag came out 30 seconds later our day would have looked a lot different. That really hurt us. We lost some speed during the race as well but we still had a top five kind of day. We showed that we have the pace and we just have to keep building and moving forward.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (Finished 11th – No. 29 Genesys Honda): “It was a bit of an up and down day for us. I think we had higher hopes for qualifying but ultimately, starting 19th we knew we had a bit of work in front of us. We worked on the car in warmup and made it a lot better – a lot more in line with our teammates. In the race, we committed to a three-stop strategy right off the bat. We had a decent first stint, but when we came in for our first set of Reds, we got stuck behind Chilton and lost a little bit of time. On the next stint, we were really making some gains – that yellow helped us out. Unfortunately, in that stop we didn’t get all the fuel in it we were hoping. So, on the third stint, we had to go into big conservation mode, and we lost a couple spots. We got all the fuel in for the end and made the car better for the last stint. We were able to pick off some people, but realistically we should have been up there kind of in between Pato and Simon. If we had got the fuel, who knows. But it was a good recovery from qualifying and then for the promise we had during the race. I’m happy for the effort the Genesys boys put it and we’ll make it better for Indy.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (Finished 13th – No. 28 DHL Honda): “We found ourselves digging out of another massive hole today. I had to drive my tail off from 22nd up through the field, close a 15-second gap on track, and then pass seven cars. It was frustrating to say the least, that’s two races in a row now where we’ve had to come back from way behind. Hopefully, we can get rid of that streak and the DHL team can move on to better things at Road America.”
SAGE KARAM (Finished 23rd – No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “We had a fast car today after a strong warm-up when we were sixth quickest. We moved up well early in the race and our strategy looked very good. But we caught the yellow flag just at the wrong time and it cost us big time. I truly believe we had a shot at a top ten finish today. Considering the DRR guys had not run a road race in seven years and never at the IMS road course, our pit stops were excellent, and the car improved every session we ran including the race. My only IMS road race was in 2014 and an IMSA sports car race. So, with experience now after today, I’d love to come back here for the October road race. It was very impressive how the whole team came together with their first road race in so many years. Sure, it was hot in the cockpit, but I feel very good after the 80 laps. It was a successful weekend for us. We are all excited to come back next month for the Indy 500 now.”
DALTON KELLETT (Finished 21st– No. 14 K-Line USA/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Alright, that’s a wrap for my first NTT INDYCAR Series race. First of all, I have to thank AJ Foyt Racing and K-Line Insulators USA, they gave me a great car. We’ve been working on it all weekend. It’s been a tough condensed weekend for me being a rookie with minimal testing coming in. Had a lot of work cut out for us and we didn’t really put a foot wrong, finished all our laps, got lots of experience and I think that was the goal for this weekend so I’m happy that we can walk away having checked that box. We’re going to debrief with the 4 car and the engineers and see what we can learn. And now that my appetite’s been whetted for this kind of racing, I can’t wait to come back next weekend at Road America.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (Finished 18th– No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “While I think that 18th is not the result that the No. 4 Tresiba team wanted out of this weekend, I’m really proud of the guys. They fought hard all day. All three pit stops were money. The car had decent pace at times but I think there was room to improve. I know the engineers and I already have some ideas heading into the doubleheader next weekend at Road America. It was a hot, physical race and I know the guys were hot because they don’t get the same breeze I do in the cockpit. So overall a good weekend, a learning weekend. We’ll move on from here and be better next time.”
ALEX PALOU (Finished 19th – No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “It was really tough today at the GMR Grand Prix. Our strategy didn’t work out how we would have hoped. We pit early when we were running on the Firestone red tires and that ended up not playing in our favor. Then we didn’t have any luck with the caution because we lost a lap there, so it was kind of over at that point for us. However, the pace of our Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda wasn’t bad, we improved from yesterday, which is good. We’ll need to analyze everything but I’m happy that we got all the laps in today. It will help us for Road America next weekend. I think we’ll be much better there.”
SPENCER PIGOT (Finished 24th – No. 45 Mi-Jack / Shield Cleansers Racing Honda): “We had a really good race going today; it was a lot of fun. Early on we passed quite a few cars are were up inside the top-10 within not too many laps. We had a really good handling car and we were making moves and elected for a two-stop strategy so we were saving fuel the whole time and still keeping a good pace throughout the race. We just kept going forward and came out of the pits after the last stop in third, right behind Graham, who was on the podium so it was looking like we could have had two Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars on the podium but unfortunately we had an issue. It just wasn’t meant to be today but overall I can’t thank everyone on the 45 car enough and the whole team really. It was a great debut for RLL and Citrone/Buhl Autosport, Shield Cleansers, Mi-Jack, Embrace Pittsburgh. I thank everyone for their support. We’ll try again in August at the Indy 500."
WILL POWER (Finished 20th – No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We had a great Verizon Chevy and definitely had the speed that we showed in qualifying. Just got caught out by an unfortunate caution that really didn’t help. After that, we had a problem in the pits that cost us a lot of time and then there was no chance to recover. Chevrolet did a really great job with the power and we had awesome car, but we just had a tough day. This Verizon team is fast, we just need to put a full race together.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (Finished 15th– No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It wasn’t the best start for us and we dropped some positions. It just wasn’t a good start and from there it was hard to maintain the pace. On our pit stop, we stalled and lost more time so we’ll have to go back and analyze what happened there. So overall we lost a lap then got it back with the yellow and finished mid-pack so we’ll have to see what we can do better and get up front with our teammates where we’re supposed to be.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (Finished 25th – No. 27 AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “We just lost power on that restart. We think it was the same fuel pressure issue that we had yesterday. We thought we had it resolved, but clearly, we didn’t. It was strange because it was fine until we went under yellow. I think the AutoNation / NAPA Honda was good today. I think it was a top-five car. It’s just unfortunate that we’ve had this kind of weekend two races in a row. But we have four races in the next two weekends which will give us a chance to come back. We’re focusing on race wins and looking forward to welcoming fans back to the race next week at Road America.”
ZACH VEACH (Finished 14th– No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Overall just a really hard weekend, started off with a car that was more of a test car than anything and we couldn’t get it to work the way we wanted it to. We finally made the car pretty good by warm-up, the car was definitely good on reds in the race but lost a drink bottle on Lap 10 and with it being a 90-degree day, and as cooling as the new aeroscreen can be, it made for a really tough race. About half-way through, unfortunately, Marco and I made contact – sorry to Marco for that, just made for an even tougher weekend on our part. Looking forward to Road America next weekend to have a much better go at it.”
NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: Dixon 104, Pagenaud 75, Newgarden 64, Herta 58, Rahal 54, Veach 50, Daly 46, O'Ward 42, Hunter-Reay 41, Ericsson 40.
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