Kohler Grand Prix Review: Scott Dixon Claims Elusive First Victory

By: Christian Ryan

He’s been leading points and running up front, but now Scott Dixon has claimed a victory in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s victory in the KOHLER Grand Prix not only marks a milestone for the season, but for the veteran driver’s career as the four-time series champion had not previously stood on top of the podium at Road America.

Dixon started the race fifth, behind four Penske Racing cars. However, taking advantage of pit strategy, Dixon powered past Josef Newgarden for the lead on a lap 31 restart and never looked back. The victory, the 41st of the driver’s career, sees him one victory away from tying Michael Andretti on IndyCar’s all-time win list.

While being known as a driver who dominates the second half of the season, Dixon has had his share of near victories before the KOHLER Grand Prix. Now, with the first victory out of the way and the points lead strengthened, Dixon can look forward to the remainder of the championship battle.

“The Penske cars definitely had something figured out this weekend and we knew we were going to have a battle on our hands,” Dixon said, post-race. “We had great strategy and great pace today and I couldn’t be happier for the team. We had a few races earlier this year that I felt got away, so this feels good and it’s good for us in the points.”

The top four qualifying Penske cars remained at the front of the pack throughout the race, placing second through fifth. Josef Newgarden was the favourite to win early in the race, but the restart that saw Dixon pass for the lead would leave him second.

“You can’t predict [yellow flags] and I think our strategy was spot on,” Newgarden said. “We were doing what we needed to do to stay out front there all day, but you just can’t predict those yellows, and some days they fall your way and some days they don’t.”

Behind Newgarden finished pole sitter Helio Castroneves, whose pole position at Road America was the 50th of his storied career. The landmark achievement sees Castroneves secure sole ownership of third on the all-time pole list, three behind A.J. Foyt. However, the Penske driver’s shot at victory fell to differences in strategy.

“At the end of the race Scott [Dixon] did a good job saving fuel and going a lap farther,” he explains. “When you battle this close with everyone it’s the difference of one small detail. At the end of the day, it was a good day for the points championship. It’s kind of disappointing that Team Penske didn’t get the win here today considering how strong all of the cars were.”

Not all positions were decided by strategy, as the KOHLER Grand Prix saw its share of incidents throughout the race. Canadian James Hinchcliffe, driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, would collide with fifth-place finisher Will Power on a restart. Front wing repair on pit road would see the driver go a lap down, ultimately finishing 20th. However, the Mayor of Hinchtown is already setting his sights on the Iowa Corn 300: a race he won in 2013.

“We’ve had a couple of bad results in the last few races,” he admits. “This is the only one that was on us, other than that it’s really just been bad luck. Hopefully we can get all this behind us and we can have a good result at Iowa in the Arrow car.”

Other incidents saw an already sore Takuma Sato losing control on lap 29. The 2017 Indianapolis 500 Champion has been dealing with a strained neck, but luckily did not seem to irritate it any further in the accident. He would place 19th. Meanwhile, Tony Kanaan, teammate of race winner Dixon, would place 21st after colliding with Alexander Rossi on lap 46.

“We were working our way back up and we thought we had a good chance at getting a top-10 finish, but then [Rossi] blocked me and put me in the wall,” Kanaan said of the incident. “I don’t think it was a nice move at all, but I’m not going to waste my time with it… Congrats to Scott [Dixon] and the No. 9 car. They were fast all weekend.

Verizon IndyCar Series action returns on Sunday, July 9th as the series’ best take on the tough, short oval. Canadian fans can follow the action on Sportsnet360.

KOHLER Grand Prix Top 10:

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Helio Castroneves
  4. Simon Pagenaud
  5. Will Power
  6. Charlie Kimball
  7. Ed Jones
  8. Graham Rahal
  9. Max Chilton
  10. Mikhail Aleshin

Verizon IndyCar Series Top 10 Points After Texas:

  1. Scott Dixon (379)
  2. Simon Pagenaud (345)
  3. Helio Castroneves (342)
  4. Takuma Sato (323)
  5. Josef Newgarden (318)
  6. Will Power (316)
  7. Graham Rahal (307)
  8. Tony Kanaan (273)
  9. Alexander Rossi (271)
  10. Ed Jones (254)

Driver quotes obtained from official IndyCar press releases.