MADISON, Ill. — It was a race that Josef Newgarden needed to win to have any shot at contending for the championship for the remainder of the season.
However, a mishap late in the race would dash those hopes and open it up for Scott Dixon, who executed a daring but impressive pit strategy to grab his second win in a row.
“We took a pretty good grid penalty today,” said Dixon. “We had to go the alternate route, and it worked out perfectly. This team was perfect.”
Dixon had to start several spots back from where he qualified earlier in the day because of an unauthorized engine change. The “alternate” route only needed three pit stops thanks to a well-timed fuel-saving strategy, which was a challenge.
“There was definitely some tense moments,” Dixon said. “I think probably the hardest part was the restart where we were leading, having to get a pretty high fuel number.”
That restart came midway through the race when Takuma Sato, in what might have been his final IndyCar race, got caught in the marbles and crashed. That caution was perfectly timed as Dixon made what would be his second stop of the day, meaning he could only make one more stop to the end.
He, Newgarden, and Pato O’Ward shuffled for the lead throughout the latter half of the race. Eventually, Newgarden having pitted and needing to make up track position, tapped the outside wall damaging his suspension with 50 laps to go and ending his day.
“I was just trying to catch up,” Newgarden said. “I knew we were going to lose to someone in fuel save, most likely Dixon or somebody. I was just trying to get through cars as quickly as I could when I pitted, and it didn’t work out. I got in the marbles, just a touch too high.”
The mishap also ended Newgarden’s bid to become the first driver ever to win every oval race in a season. He had won the four previous oval races this year.
As the pit strategies played out, O’Ward had to pit for a fourth time giving up the lead to Alexander Rossi. He too also had to pit late giving the lead to Dixon who was still hitting a fuel number to get to the end. He hit enough as led 123 laps and secured his second win in a row after coming into the weekend having won at the IMS road course.
“To go back to back feels fantastic, on two very different circuits,” said Dixon. “Again, I think it’s a testament to what this team has been able to do, all four cars throughout this year.”
With Newgarden mathematically out of the championship picture, the championship race is now an all-Ganassi affair with Dixon now 74 points behind leader Alex Palou. Palou finished 7th on the day.
Palou still has a tough lead for Dixon to overcome with two races to go. Dixon will try to reel in his teammate as the series will head to Portland, Oregon for the Grand Prix of Portland next weekend.
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