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 on Sunday 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 error 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.