Chip Ganassi's Dixon takes championship lead after Houston doubleheader

Dario Franchitti was admitted awake and alert to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center in Houston after an accident on the last lap of Race 2.

HOUSTON, Texas – Target Chip Ganassi Racing (TCGR) driver Scott Dixon piloted the No. 9 Target Honda to first and second-place finishes in the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader and took over the championship lead in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series points standings by 25 points– part of a 74-point swing in the title hunt over the weekend.

Target teammate Dario Franchitti took the checkered flag 15th in both events, and was admitted awake and alert to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center in Houston after an accident on the last lap of Race 2.

Race 1 - Saturday, October 5

Race winner Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Race winner Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: John Cote

Dixon qualified the No. 9 Target Honda third for the 1.7-mile street course on Saturday. The race was set to begin with a standing start, but a stalled car on the grid aborted the first attempt. On the second attempt, the field successfully started, but another stalled car resulted in the competition’s first caution on lap one of the 90-lap event.

On the ensuing restart on lap 10, Dixon advanced to second. In a close contest for the lead, the No. 9 team pitted on lap 37 – one lap earlier than the leader. The pit strategy enabled Dixon to overtake the leader, cycling him into first on lap 39. Throughout the next 26 laps, Dixon maintained the lead. On his final pit stop on lap 65, the competition’s third full-course caution occurred.

Dixon exited the pits in third, with the two drivers ahead of him still needing to make their final stops. On lap 68, Dixon cycled back up to first and took the lead for good on the competition’s fourth caution. Powering through two additional late cautions, Dixon was able to maintain his lead and scored his fourth win this season, and first victory in Houston.

Franchitti qualified the No. 10 T-Mobile Honda 10th, but started in 20th as a result of a 10-spot grid penalty assessed for an unapproved engine change in Baltimore. He began the race strong, passing cars before pitting off sequence on lap 16 and cycling back into 20th. On lap 37, he moved his way through the field, driving into ninth.

Three laps later, Franchitti stalled on the track, which resulted in the competition’s second caution. On lap 44, he made his second pit stop of the day and slid back into 19th position. Two late cautions helped Franchitti advance into 15th, where he finished one lap down.

Race 2 - Sunday, October 6

Dixon started second for Race 2 on Sunday. Earlier in the day, inclement weather resulted in the cancelation of qualifying, and the grid was set by entrant points. The first attempt at a standing start was aborted as a result of two cars stalled on the grid. After a successful second attempt at a standing start, the competition’s first caution came on lap two of the 90-lap event.

The field went back to green on lap seven, and Dixon passed the leader on lap 11 after he encountered a mechanical issue. On lap 30, during the competition’s third caution, the No. 9 team completed their first pit stop of the day. Dixon maintained the lead during the subsequent restart on lap 33, but one lap later the field was again under caution.

During the ensuing restart on lap 40, Dixon fell back one position where he continued in a close battle with the leader. On lap 62, he again pitted under caution and remained in second position. Three late cautions occurred, and Dixon went on to secure a podium finish of second. With the results, he took a 25-point advantage in the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings.

Franchitti started seventh on entrant points and during the first attempt at a standing start, his car stalled on the grid, forcing him to start at the rear on the second attempt per the rulebook. On lap five, Franchitti pitted for an off sequence stop, cycling him back to 22nd. After the competition’s second caution on lap 12, the No. 10 driver moved up into 18th.

On lap 26, Franchitti entered pit road for his final stop. Three laps later, the competition was under its third caution, which helped advance Franchitti into the 17th position. Two late-race cautions helped propel him into 11th by lap 61. During the final lap of the race, Franchitti was maintaining his position before the No. 14 car had contact with Franchitti and sent him into the catch fence.

As a result of the incident, the race finished under yellow with the No. 10 team in 15th. Franchitti was admitted awake and alert to Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center in Houston for a concussion and a spinal fracture that will require no surgery, and a fracture to the right ankle. He was kept overnight.

Scott Dixon: “I think the biggest thing is to make sure everybody is okay after the accident today. Dario did go into the fence pretty hard. And then obviously I hope the fans are all okay as it looked like the fence took a pretty good hit there. The Target car didn't quite have the pace that we needed in the race. I think it took a little while to get going. All in all, it was a good fight between Will Power and I. We raced hard toward the end, and he was definitely quick today.

I think we had a good shot of getting the points race level coming out of Houston. But to make that gain, I think we as a team know that we had the potential to have a good shot at winning both races, especially street courses at the moment. But you can never predict how the competition is going to be or the problems they may have. I feel bad for Helio with the weekend that he had. I think you’ve seen championship contenders have problems throughout the year, and he's been pretty consistent throughout the year up until now.

Most of the time, you see the top competitors get their fair share of problems. So it's really going to come down to the wire. It's going to be the last lap, and the last corner kind of situation that we’ve come to expect in the IndyCar Series. At least I hope it ends that way. You don't want somebody crashing out on lap three or even midway through the race. I think both engine manufacturers have got some updates for Fontana. We'll probably see a lot of grid penalties before the race. It's going to be a fun race. We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got to go with the mindset of trying to win the race.”

Chip Ganassi Racing

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Race reports
Tags chip ganassi, dixon, franchitti, houston, indycar