BY JIM MILLER WEEKLY INDYCAR WRITER
It took IndyCar six years to return to Watkins Glen International and Scott Dixon made the most of it.
Dixon (Chevrolet/Chip Ganassi Racing) led all three practices and went on to set a track record to qualify for the pole position. He then followed that up by leading 50 of 60 laps to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn permanent road course.
This win was Dixon’s 40th IndyCar career win and his second this season. After the race Dixon announced that he was donating his winnings to the Wilson Children’s Fund in honor of Justin Wilson who was killed a year ago at Pocono.
Under perfect racing conditions on a track touted as a favorite by many drivers the race began fast with cars spreading four wide going into Turn 1. Jack Hawksworth (Honda/A. J. Foyt Enterprises) took the inside line squeezing Simon Pagenaud (Chevrolet/Team Penske) up towards Juan Montoya (Chevrolet/Team Penske) who spun affecting Josef Newgarden (Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing),Conor Daly (Honda/Dale Coyne Racing,) and heading Sebastien Bourdais (Chevrolet/KVSH Racing) towards the inside barrier. As Dixon was pulling away from the pack all cars managed to recover and continue.
The first of three cautions of the day came out on Lap 14 when Mikhail Aleshin’s (Honda/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) left rear tire failed at full speed sending him hard into the barrier. He exited the car unhurt and was done for the day.
The second caution came on Lap 19 when Graham Rahal (Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) was bumped by Charlie Kimball (Chevrolet/Chip Ganassi Racing) sending Rahal headlong into the wall at the exit of Turn 1. “He decided to not give me any room,” Rahal said of Kimball. “That’s a hard hit. That’s probably the hardest hit I’ve taken in my life.”
The third and probably the most critical caution of the day where the season points standings are concerned came on Lap 39 when Will Power (Chevrolet/Team Penske) came through the esses followed by Kimball. Kimball made a move on the outside of Power who was taking his normal line. Kimball ran out of room and made contact with Power’s left rear sending him directly hard into the outside barrier. Power was checked out and released from the infield care center, but he has not been cleared by INDYCAR to drive due to concussion-like symptoms.
After most of the leaders pitted on Lap 41 the remaining 19 laps came down to fuel management to ensure they had enough to make it to the end of the race without another pit stop. Unfortunately for the field Dixon is a master at saving fuel.
Dixon took the checkered flag 16.53 seconds ahead of Newgarden. Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet/Team Penske) who took a 3.9 second in-and-out splash of fuel with three laps to go came in third. Conor Daly rebounded from his Lap 1 incident to coast over the finish line in fourth followed by Bourdais in fifth.
Power was scored in the 20th position with Simon Pagenaud finishing seventh. Pagenaud now leads Power by 43 points (555 to 512) heading into the double-points-paying season finale in two weeks at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on September 18th. Dixon is in a third-place tie with Helio Castroneves (451 points).