Scott Dixon © Gallo Images
New Zealand’s Scott Dixon held off American Graham Rahal over the final laps to win Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis for his 54th career IndyCar triumph.
The 43-year-old Kiwi driver was in a collision on the opening lap and went to the rear of the field but battled back to lead the last 25 laps of the 85-lap feature on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Six-time IndyCar season champion Dixon won his first race since last year at Nashville, giving him a race victory in 19 consecutive seasons to extend his IndyCar record.
Dixon made his 319th consecutive IndyCar start to break the old record streak he shared with Brazil’s Tony Kanaan.
“What a day to win on. It makes it worthwhile. We’ll try to win number 320,” said Dixon, who admitted to some worry after a year’s win drought.
“You always have doubt. That’s the unfortunate part of the business but working with this crew is just amazing.”
Dixon started 16th and was involved in a first-lap crash with season points leaders Alex Palou and Josef Newgarden, but the car suffered only minor damage and a long delay under caution allowed him to make the end with only two refueling stops.
“That was crazy,” Dixon said of his start. “I had a fantastic start. I got up to eighth or ninth and got T-boned in turn seven. It has been a trying year for us. When things could have rolled our way they haven’t.”
Taking advantage of superior fuel mileage, Dixon used the cautions to his advantage and was able to escape the last pit exchange ahead of Rahal.
“Towards the end, I think I pushed it a little hard to create that gap on Graham and unfortunately burnt the tires up a little bit,” Dixon said. “So it was a little bit sketchy at the end.”
PALOU LEADS POINTS CHASE
Pole-sitter Rahal, chasing his first victory in six years, settled for second followed in order by Mexico’s Pato O’Ward, Norway’s Christian Lundgaard and American Alexander Rossi.
“I thought all day we dominated,” said Rahal. “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not bummed. But I’m bummed. Even on a day when we do everything right, lady luck isn’t quite on our side.”
Spaniard Palou leads the season points chase with 539 while Dixon moved into second, 101 adrift, and Newgarden third, 105 off the pace.
Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco, whose fifth-place starting spot was the best of his two-year career, charged to the lead at the start with a daring outside pass on the first lap.
But the early crash led to a restart that allowed Rahal to grab the top spot and he kept command until Dixon, off the normal pit stop cycle, made his last refueling with 25 laps remaining and led to the end.