After not leading any laps in the first six races of the season, Scott Dixon has turned around his campaign in a hurry. Saturday night, he started seventh and led the last 119 of 248 laps en route to a dominating win in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The four-time IndyCar Series Champion pulled away to win by 4.2943 seconds over Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. It marks his third career win at the 1.5-mile track (2008 and 2015). He joins Helio Castroneves (four) as the only drivers to win at the track more than three times.
Dixon now has sole possession of third place on the all-time IndyCar win list, passing Michael Andretti after his 43rd victory. The Verizon IndyCar Series points leader also won the first of two races in Detroit last weekend.
How the race would play out was a major unknown heading into the evening. It would be just the second race for the new speedway aero kit. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started from pole and dominated the early portion of the race, leading the first 59 laps.
Trouble found Matheus Leist early on in the event. The A.J. Foyt Racing rookie lost power in Turns 1 and 2 before his Dallara-Chevrolet caught fire. Leist was able to come to a complete stop and climb from his burning car unscathed.
His teammate would find trouble on Lap 26, as Tony Kanaan broke a toe link bar and brushed the wall in Turn 2. The 2004 Texas winner would leave pit road 14 laps later, but returned a short time after.
As expected, tire wear became a major concern throughout the evening. Several teams reported blistering on. their Firestone tires. The tire manufacturer had brought a new compound after issues during the 2017 race at Texas.
The early advantage the Teams Penske trio of Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power had by starting up front dissipated as all three dealt with tire blistering throughout the evening.
Fuel mileage would also become paramount as the race unfolded. Honda had a clear advantage, running several laps further on the first stint than their Chevrolet counterparts.
Some mechanical issues would befall two of the Honda drivers midway through the race. On Lap 96, Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach brushed the wall close to where Kanaan had made contact earlier and damaged his car after an impressive early run.
His teammate Marco Andretti would experience issues of his own. Andretti finished four laps down in 14th despite clutch issues, while Veach ended the day 10 laps behind in 16th.
Much of the middle portion of the race was run without incident, as drivers spread out during the long green flag stints.
On Lap 172, the first incident of the evening occurred. The lapped car of Ed Carpenter drifted into the car of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens in Turn 3, ending what had been a disappointing night for Carpenter and another impressive night for Wickens.
The Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader led 31 laps. The crash marks the first DNF for him since the season opener in St. Petersburg.
The race would restart on Lap 185 and the carnage would continue not long after. Will Power, who came into the race as the points leader and won the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, drifted into Dale Coyne Racing rookie Zachary Claman De Melo off of Turn 4. The Lap 205 contact would end the race early for both drivers.
During the final restart on Lap 215, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud remained within sight of Dixon, but the latter pulled away as the run went on. Pagenaud was left to fend off a valiant effort from Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi for the runner-up spot.
Dixon drove off for his second win of 2018. He also would leave Texas with a 23-point lead over Rossi in the standings.
Pagenaud would hang on for second, his first Top 3 finish of the season.The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion would be the lone Chevrolet-powered car in the Top 5.
Rossi rounded out the podium in third, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe posting a fourth-place finish in his first oval race since his DNQ at Indianapolis. Ryan Hunter-Reay would give Andretti Autosport a second Top Five in the race and Honda four of the top five finishers.
After the most grueling stretch of the season, the Verizon IndyCar Series will have a much-needed break next weekend. On June 24, they will run at the 4.048-mile road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Image courtesy of Chris Jones/INDYCAR Media.