Dixon dominates crash-free IndyCar Series race at Texas
STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Scott Dixon was still moaning 30 minutes before the race about the extra downforce planned for his car.
After his dominating victory at Texas, in a crash-free and record-setting race with new aero kits, Dixon certainly had no complaints with his No. 9 Chevrolet that he said was “basically on rails.”
Dixon won by 7.8 seconds over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan on Saturday night in the fastest IndyCar Series race ever at high-speed, high-banked Texas track. The New Zealander led 97 of 248 laps and won with an average speed of 191.940 mph.
“In hindsight, I’m glad,” Dixon said. “They understood what they were doing. That’s why they do what they do and I just drove the car.”
After anxiety about how the cars would handle on the 1 1/2-mile track with the new aero kits, especially after three Chevrolets went airborne during practice for the Indianapolis 500, there were no accidents.
There were only one caution, excluding the first lap of the race when the initial start was waved off because the 23-car field wasn’t properly aligned. The yellow flag came out on lap 84 for debris on the frontstretch.
Dixon got his 37th career win. He also won in 2008 at Texas, which has now hosted 27 IndyCar races.
Brazilian drivers and longtime friends and competitors Kanaan and Helio Castroneves were in a close race for second place.
“It was a great race. At the beginning of the race, we’re looking at each other, I’m looking at Helio’s setup, like downforce-wise, they’re looking at mine, and we were like, somebody’s going to get it right,” Kanaan said. “We had a great battle. It reminded me, this guy, we’ve been racing together for 25 years.”
Castroneves, whose four IndyCar wins at Texas are the track record, responded, “From the early age, now to the old age.”
After the airborne cars at Indianapolis, IndyCar this week mandated the use of closure panels on the rear wheel guards. Those are designed to eliminate lift when an Indy car is traveling backward at a high rate of speed during an accident, and will also be required at California and Pocono.
Dixon indicated there was no noticeable difference to how the car drove with the panels.
“I don’t think that it affected the race, as you saw tonight, in any way whatsoever,” said Mike Hull, the strategist for Dixon’s team. “It was a positive gain really because we really didn’t have anything against the fence tonight. So if you look at it that way, I think it was a great success.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay had the only crash all weekend in Texas, in the first practice Friday when his No. 28 Honda spun and headed backward toward the outside wall. His left rear slammed hard before sliding down the track, but the car never went airborne.
Hunter-Reay finished 18th, seven laps behind Dixon.
Will Power started from the pole at Texas for the third year in a row, but finished 13th, four laps off the pace. His only win in Texas came in the second race of a doubleheader in 2011 when he started third.
Defending race champion Ed Carpenter was done after only 147 laps because of mechanical issues. He had already fallen a couple of laps off the pace in his No. 20 Honda when it parked it and finished 22nd in the 23-car field.
“We’ve got to go home and get this figured out. Haven’t had cars this bad in a long time,” said Carpenter, the car owner who drives the oval races. “I’m part of the problem because I’m not helping get a solution. We’re underachieving big-time.”
There was a big surprise before the race. James Hinchcliffe gave the command for drivers to start their engines on video from his home in Indianapolis, where the driver is recovering after his left leg was pierced in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice.