Scott Dixon has ensured that the 2013 IndyCar Series championship will go down to the wire, with the Kiwi earning victory in the the first of this weekend’s double-header races on the streets of Houston.

The Chip Ganassi driver’s points to deficit to series leader Hélio Castroneves is now just eight points, with the Brazilian suffering a string of issues in Saturday’s 90-lap race, finishing 10 laps adrift in eighteenth.

Having qualified on the clean side of the second row of the grid, Dixon was up to second place behind long-time rival Will Power at the end of the first green-flag lap, and the pair ran nose-to-tail until the first round of pit stops, where the slightest of delays by Power’s Team Penske pit crew proved enough for Dixon to get the jump on the Australian.

Still, the battle was not over, and Dixon was unable to eke out any kind of margin over Power.

But the key moment came during one of the race’s safety car interruptions late in the race, with Dixon opting to pit for the final time, while Power and series rookie Luca Filippi stayed out to run 1-2, still needing to make a final pit stop, which they no doubt both hoped would come courtesy of another full-course caution.

That didn’t come, and both were forced to pit under green flags when their fuel tanks started to run low, which gave Dixon the lead from Simona de Silvestro, who had impressively run inside the top-five all race long.

Ironically, another safety car was triggered shortly after, and Dixon managed the restart perfectly, blasting away from de Silvestro, who was left to fend her second place from a recovering Justin Wilson, who had been forced to limp to the pits mid-race when he suffered a puncture.

The top-three positions were cemented when Wilson’s teammate, Mike Conway, crashed his Dale Coyne Racing car with five laps to go, and the race finished under caution.

After showing flashes of promise over the course of the season, de Silvestro finally secured the first podium finish of her IndyCar Series career off the back of an excellent qualifying performance, while the ever-consistent Wilson was happy with third, despite losing out on a shot of snatching second place, courtesy of his teammate’s late race crash.

For Dixon, this was a critical win after his troubled outings at the previous rounds at Sonoma and Baltimore, not least of which because of the disastrous races that befell his main championship rivals, Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Brazilian had his 49-point lead slashed to just 8 by the time the chequered flag fell, with the Penske driver delayed in the pits with a gearbox issue, before losing more time with a string of minor incidents while he tried to recover the lost ground. Hunter-Reay suffered back-to-back retirements, with his Andretti Autosports entry grinding to a halt with electrical issues.

It was a bad weekend for the Andretti stable, with Hunter-Reay’s teammate James Hinchcliffe retiring after just one lap. The Canadian was slow away at the start and was collected by Tristan Vautier and Ed Carpenter.

Pole-sitter Takuma Sato also crashed back to earth with a bump, suffering an early puncture before losing his pit-to-car radio communication and later having a slide into the tyre barriers.

The field will regroup on Sunday for another qualifying session to determine the grid for Sunday’s closing race, which will kick off with a standing start.

2013 IndyCar Grand Prix of Houston – Race 1 Final Classification (90 laps):

Driver   Entry / Team Laps Result
1. Scott Dixon NZL Chip Ganassi Racing 90 1:54:48.3924
2. Simona de Silvestro KV Racing Technology 90 + 0.8781
3. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing 90 + 2.1432
4. Simon Pagenaud SPH Racing 90 + 3.5492
5. Josef Newgarden USA Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing 90 + 4.2293
6. James Jakes Rahal Letterman Lanigan 90 + 5.4614
7. Graham Rahal USA Rahal Letterman Lanigan 90 + 6.0983
8. Sébastien Bourdais Dragon Racing 90 + 6.8946
9. E.J. Viso Team Venzuela / Andretti 90 + 8.1873
10. Luca Filippi ITA Barracuda Racing 90 + 9.3052
11. Charlie Kimball USA Chip Ganassi Racing 90 + 9.9622
12. Will Power AUS Team Penske 90 + 10.6455
13. Marco Andretti USA Andretti Autosport 90 + 11.1431
14. Sebastián Saavedra Dragon Racing 89 1 lap behind
15. Dario Franchitti Chip Ganassi Racing 89 1 lap behind
16. Mike Conway Dale Coyne Racing 85 Accident
17. Takuma Sato AJ Foyt Enterprises 82 Handling
18. Hélio Castroneves BRA Team Penske 80 10 laps behind
Not Classified        
DNF. Oriol Servia ESP Panther Racing 63 Mechanical
DNF. Ryan Hunter-Reay USA Andretti Autosport 57 Electrical
NCF. Tony Kanaan BRA KV Racing Technology 34 56 laps behind
NCF. Tristan Vautier SPH Racing 32 58 laps behind
NCF. Ed Carpenter USA Ed Carpenter Racing 30 60 laps behind
DNF. James Hinchcliffe CAN Andretti Autosport 1 Accident

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.