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Scott Dixon

Source: Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment / other

LONG BEACH, Calif. — What would you say is best to win a race: youthful talent or veteran experience? On Sunday under a sunny clear sky in southern California, Scott Dixon proved, at least on this day, that the latter seems to prevail.

Dixon and his crew, who started 8th, took a gamble after a caution in the early stages of the race to pit before anyone else and hopefully save enough fuel to cycle to the lead in the end.

That’s exactly what happened as Dixon would lead the final 22 laps to take the win in the Long Beach Grand Prix, his 57th career win.

“That was tough. That was real tough,” Dixon said of the victory. “I honestly kept thinking we weren’t going to make it, but a huge credit to everybody in the pit. Hopefully, we can keep doing this this year!”

When a caution came out early on Lap 14 when Christian Rassmussen spun after damaging a rear toe link, race leader Will Power, who started second behind pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist, chose to pit early off the expected strategy.

Dixon and a few other drivers followed suit.

The strategy call meant that when it came down to the end both drivers would have to save fuel and put together two extremely long stints to get to the end of the 85 laps.

Josef Newgarden, who started 3rd, opted to stay on strategy and put ten laps later. This meant Newgarden had to worry much less about fuel saving.

As the laps wound down, Dixon proved to have a better handle on the alternate strategy than Power, who ended up dropping back through the field as the race wore on.

Dixon made his final pit stop on Lap 61, meaning he would have to last 34 laps to the end, a feat that seemed insurmountable. But, lest we forget, we are talking about Scott Dixon, a driver who has been in a similar situation more times than we can count.

With Newgarden pitting seven laps later than Dixon, the Tennessee native had a seven-second gap to make up to the Kiwi. Newgarden made that gap up in about ten laps, setting up what appeared to be a dual to the finish between two of IndyCar’s most decorated drivers.

“Josef was coming strong and I didn’t know how was going to come on behind us,” Dixon said. “Chip(Ganassi) just kept saying ‘Just go for it!’ The stress level was high.”

With less than ten laps left to go, Newgarden was throwing everything at Dixon, but the wily veteran countered every move while also keeping just enough fuel in his tank to keep fighting.

The fight ended earlier than many expected as coming into the hairpin in the waiting laps, Newgarden was bumped from behind by Colton Herta, who was able to catch up to the front two due to lap traffic. The collision caused Newgarden’s car to go into “anti-stall” and he lost all his momentum dropping two spots when his engine refired.

Newgarden was furious IndyCar did not assess a penalty to Herta for the contact.

“It seemed pretty obvious. He just misjudged it and ran into me,” Newgarden said. “I couldn’t get going because we went into anti-stall.”

Newgarden was able to salvage a fourth-place finish when all was said and done.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to get Dixon, it was incredibly hard,” he said. “We had a great car. We gotta be happy with a fourth. But the Herta deal, (IndyCar) should definitely look for it.”

“Misjudged it a little bit,” Herta said of the incident. “He looked a bit slower, but ultimately it was up to me to slow up into the corner. I don’t like racing like that, especially against a guy like Josef.”

Herta moved into second place after the incident and pressured Dixon some, but in the end, Dixon showed once again his experience continues to propel him further into the lore of IndyCar racing.

The win, his second at Long Beach, gives Dixon 57 wins on his career, now ten wins behind the all-time leader AJ Foyt (67). The victory also allowed Dixon to leap from ninth to second in the championship standings, 12 points behind Newgarden.

Instead of a five-week layoff like it was between St. Pete and Long Beach, drivers will turn right around and head back east to Alabama in the coming weekend as they will tackle their first road course of the season at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday, April 28th.