Scott Dixon ended his Long Beach drought with a comfortable victory a the 41st edition of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday.
After qualifying third-fastest on Saturday, the Target Chip Ganassi driver was able to get around Juan Pablo Montoya at the rolling start to grab second place, and then capitalised on a brief delay on race leader and pole-winner Hélio Castroneves during the first round of stops to leapfrog the Brazilian.
From that point onwards, he was never under threat. By the third stint, his lead over Castroneves extended to more than three seconds, and settled to 2.2 seconds when he crossed the line to take his first win at a venue where he had never previously finished higher than fourth.
Dixon’s first victory was his 36th overall, breaking a tie with legend Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time IndyCar winners’ list. Unser’s brother Al is fourth on the all time list with 39 victories. This was the 98th victory for team owner Chip Ganassi.
“This is huge I love the event,” explained a stoked Dixon. “But as far as coming here and doing well it hadn’t been on that list. That pit stop exchange definitely helped us to get the lead but the car was fast and all we had to do was maintain the lead.”
Castroneves had a similarly straightforward run to the flag to take second place, moving him to within three points of championship leader Montoya.
“My AAA was awesome and we were pretty good all the way,” the Brazilian said afterwards. “The guys did a great job in the pits and especially the close call between me and Ganassi. It was just perfect and better to be safe than sorry, but overall it was a great job for Team Penske. At the end of the day, second place is not bad.”
It was left to the battle for final place on the podium behind him to provide most of the late race entertainment.
Initially it was a scrap between Penske teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, with Pagenaud pushing the Colombian to his limits right through the final stint.
Over the closing laps Tony Kanaan and Sébastien Bourdais closed in to make it a four-way encounter, but nobody was able to make a move stick and the quartet crossed the line with their running order unchanged.
The race itself was largely uneventful. The only caution period was early and brief; the cars spending just a couple of laps behind the Safety Car to allow a piece of debris to be removed.
It was during this interruption that reigning champion Will Power’s weekend went from bad to disastrous.
After qualifying a lowly 18th on Saturday, the Australian stalled at the pit lane entrance after getting boxed in behind the similarly-stalled Luca Filippi in the queue for an early fuel top-up.
“I feel bad for the Verizon Chevy team,” said Power, who finished 20th, having lost a lap while his car was being fired up again.
“They worked so hard and me finishing 20th was a result of a bad day in qualifying. I didn’t get it done and it was a snowball effect from there. Today I made mistakes and I stalled the car on pit road during the first pit stop. I was hoping for a top-ten finish but it didn’t happen. It makes me more motivated to make up for it in the next couple of races.”
The next round of the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in the third consecutive race in three weekends from April 24-26.
|2015 IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (80 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||80||1:37:35.235|
|2.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||80||+ 2.222|
|3.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||80||+ 13.486|
|4.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||80||+ 13.738|
|5.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||80||+ 14.625|
|6.||Sébastien Bourdais||KVSH Racing||80||+ 15.083|
|7.||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||80||+ 18.840|
|8.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 33.948|
|9.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 34.960|
|10.||Sebastian Saavedra||Chip Ganassi Racing||80||+ 35.536|
|11.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||80||+ 37.463|
|12.||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||80||+ 38.771|
|13.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||80||+ 40.335|
|14.||Jack Hawksworth||A.J. Foyt Racong||80||+ 41.274|
|16.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||80||+ 44.387|
|16.||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||80||+ 46.659|
|17.||Conor Daly||Dale Coyne Racing||80||+ 50.057|
|18.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Racing||80||+ 53.804|
|19.||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||80||+ 1:39.780|
|20.||Will Power||Team Penske||79||1 lap behind|
|21.||Franceso Dracone||Dale Coyne Racing||78||2 laps behind|
|22.||Luca Filippi||CFH Racing||77||3 laps behind|
|23.||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||69||11 laps behind|
Images via Motorsport.com