Scott Dixon won for the 36th time in his career today and for the first time on the streets of Long Beach.
After nine years trying, Scott Dixon finally won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, taking over the lead from pole man Helio Castroneves on the first pit stop exchange and holding the Brazilian at bay following the second exchange, all the way to the checkered flags.
After 80 total laps and only four early laps for debris in the ninth turn of the 1.968-mile, 11-corner street course, Team Target Ganassi’s Dixon had 2.221 seconds in hand over Team Penske’s Castroneves and more than 13 seconds over Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who took third place. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was fourth and Tony Kanaan, Dixon’s teammate took fifth.
Nineteen cars finished on the lead lap of this very clean contest - pretty much unheard-of on these city streets - and there were no retirements, although Stefano Coletti was 11 laps back after experiencing gearbox issues early in the going and stopping for repairs.
This was all Chevy's race; the first Honda was Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti, in eighth place behind Chevy runners Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden. His teammate Carlos Munoz was ninth and Ganassi’s Sebastian Saavedra scored a good tenth place. There were four lap leaders, with Dixon leading the most laps, 44, and adding to his scoring tally, Castroneves leading 31, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth pacing the field for four laps during pit stop exchanges and Bourdais leading a single lap.
After having only 21 laps of practice and experiencing Firestone’s alternate tires for the first time during qualifying on Saturday, Conor Daly did an excellent job to finish 17th in Dale Coyne’s No 18 entry. “It was fun; it was cool,” the second generation driver said. “This is a race I’ve come to for the last eight or 10 years - I love it.”
Rough day for Power
The same couldn’t be said for Will Power as the champion started 18th, lost a lap and ended up 20th after making four pit stops, becoming the first driver one lap down. “I didn’t get it done and it was a snowball effect from there,” Power explained of his failure to qualify and race well. “It makes me more motivated to make up for it the next couple of races.”
In earning his 36th INDYCAR victory, Dixon is now fifth on the all-time winner’s list, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser. Unser’s brother Al is next in Dixon’s sight lines with 39 career victories. The Australian’s most recent win before this weekend also came in California at Sonoma Raceway last August.
While he loves Long Beach, Dixon has often been star-crossed on these streets. “I love this event, but as far as coming and doing well and looking forward to it, it was never really on that list. To finally conquer it, a lot of credit to a lot of people. The pit stop exchange definitely helped us get to the lead, but the car was fast and we needed to maintain it. Here and St Pete have been tough for us - I love Long Beach but the track hasn’t always been my best.”
For his part, Castroneves found the track was “constantly changing. Every time [the car] gets new tires, reds versus blacks and things like that, the track changes quite a lot.” The Brazilian found himself changing his driving style to keep up with the changing conditions and, while he wasn’t able to add to his win total this weekend, “second place is not bad.”
Montoya hangs on for podium result
Although he was pressured by teammate Pagenaud, Montoya said the Frenchman was never close enough to make the pass. “He had a little less rear wing and, to be honest with you I was surprised my tires were going off and not his. I just had to not make a mistake, make sure I came off the last corner [well]. He had a little less rear wing and he was close - mate his nose to my rear tires - but that was about it. He never got next to me or anything.”
Montoya retains control of the championship as the Indy cars travel cross-country to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, with a three-point advantage 119-116 over Castroneves. Tony Kanaan is third with 93 points, Dixon holds 87 fourth-place thanks to this victory and NOLA victor James Hinchcliffe lies fifth. Power, Pagenaud, Newgarden, Bourdais and Graham Rahal, who finished 11th today have sixth through 10th-place points.
This Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - the 41st edition of the great race - took place in front of the customary sun-baked crowd that showed its love for the winner and for all the racers today. The weather was glorious, as it always seems to be, and the action was exceptional throughout the field. For once, the Chevrolet and Honda aero kits didn’t influence the finish and everyone kept their noses clean. In contrast to the first two races, this one was a classic.