Dixon drives to victory in Toronto, extends championship lead

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Dixon drives to victory in Toronto, extends championship lead

Story By: INDYcar Media

Photos By: Chris Jones/INDYcar

TORONTO (Sunday, July 15, 2018) – A week after issues bedeviled his chances, Scott Dixon was the model of cool, calm and consistency in winning the Honda Indy Toronto. In doing so, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver extended his Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead and added to his career legacy.

Dixon, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda, won by 5.2701 seconds over Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud to pick up his third victory of the 2018 season and push his points advantage to 62 over Josef Newgarden. The triumph was also the 44th of Dixon’s Indy car career, moving the 37-year-old within eight wins of tying Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. A.J. Foyt tops the chart with 67 wins.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe; he’s a long ways ahead,” said Dixon, who finished 12th in the Iowa Corn 300 on July 8 when plagued with car issues and pit miscues. “I think for us, we take it race by race. We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

Dixon, chasing a fifth series title that would leave him second to only Foyt’s seven championships, led 49 of 85 laps on the 1.786-mile temporary street course at Exhibition Place to earn his third win of the season and third at Toronto. His previous victories this season came at Detroit’s Belle Isle (Race 1) and Texas Motor Speedway.

Pole sitter Newgarden, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and defending winner at Toronto, led 25 early laps in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske, but brushed the wall exiting Turn 11 on a Lap 33 restart and finished ninth.

“It was a tough race,” Newgarden said. “Making contact with the wall didn’t help. I don’t know what it was, to be honest with you, it was either marbles or dust from the sweepers.

“I went straight into the wall and part of that is my fault, just making a mistake. But I didn’t expect it.”

Dixon admitted that Newgarden’s miscue was the key to the race.

“That’s where our race was won today, was through the bad luck or bad situation that Josef had,” said Dixon, whose win gave engine manufacturer Honda a sweep of the five temporary street-course races this season. “We just needed some clear air, and (after passing Newgarden) we were able to check out.”

Issues also befell Dixon’s other nearest championship contenders, with Alexander Rossi finishing eighth and Ryan Hunter-Reay 16th for Andretti Autosport, while Team Penske’s Will Power placed 18th.

It opened the door for Pagenaud to equal his season-best finish of second in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.

“It was a blast to drive,” Pagenaud said. “It was really difficult, but when you have a good result like this it feels very rewarding and a lot of fun. I’m really proud of the DXC team for a great effort this weekend. I think we showed that we’re back, so I’m excited.”

Canadian teammates Robert Wickens (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) and James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) thrilled the local fans, as the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers finished third and fourth, respectively. Wickens continued his strong rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series with his third podium finish and ninth top-10 result.

“Thankfully, I’m not an overly teary guy, but that was really cool,” Wickens said of the ovation he received from the hometown crowd when he stepped out of the car. “I can’t thank these Toronto fans enough. This whole week has been such a whirlwind of emotions, and to stand on the podium in my first professional home race, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Charlie Kimball placed a season-best fifth in the No. 23 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet and led the first lap for Carlin in its debut season in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Tony Kanaan finished a season-best sixth in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.

The race was slowed three times for 12 laps of full-course caution. Hunter-Reay brought out the first yellow when he slid into the Turn 3 tire barrier in the No. 28 DHL Honda on Lap 28. The ensuing restart on Lap 33 is when Newgarden made light contact with the Turn 11 wall, allowing Dixon to take the lead.

As the field barreled into Turn 1 following Newgarden’s incident, Graham Rahal bumped into the back of Max Chilton, setting off a chain reaction that also collected Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Power and Sebastien Bourdais. While all the drivers continued in the race, time lost undergoing repairs in the pits were devastating to the points front-runners.

After 12 of 17 races, Dixon has accumulated 464 points. Newgarden sits second with 402 points, Rossi third with 394, Hunter-Reay fourth with 373, Power fifth with 371, Wickens sixth with 339 and Pagenaud seventh with 320.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, July 29. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Mazda Road to Indy race recap

* Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing) took a dominant flag-to-flag victory in Sunday’s second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. It was Urrutia’s first win since the season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pole sitter Urrutia led all 35 laps and finished 1.2708 seconds ahead of Patricio O’Ward (Andretti Autosport). Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing), who sustained a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb when he crashed in Race 1 qualifying Saturday morning, crashed again in the first race and then again in Race 2 qualifying on Sunday morning to aggravate the injury. He started the race from pit lane and completed just four laps before retiring from the race on the advice of his team.

With the sixth-place finish, Herta fell 18 points behind teammate O’Ward for the championship after 12 of 17 races. Urrutia is in third place, 40 points behind O’Ward.

* Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay capped a championship-caliber weekend in Toronto by winning the second Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend, closing within one point of Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) for the championship lead following his second win in as many days. Thompson finished the race in eighth place.

* Kyle Kirkwood (Cape Motorsports) avoided early chaos to secure his seventh Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda victory of the season, sixth in a row and second in as many days at Toronto.

Kaylen Frederick (Pabst Racing) started on pole, but a lock-up on the opening lap set off a chain-reaction multi-car incident. Kirkwood snuck through the melee on the inside and went to first place after starting fifth. Kirkwood’s win put him in position to wrap up the championship in two weeks at Mid-Ohio.

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