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Scott Dixon in Detroit 2024

Source: Paul Hurley/Penske Entertainment / other

DETROIT — He did it once this season at Long Beach. Scott Dixon, enacting another bold fuel-saving strategy that fell into his lap in a race riddled with cautions, crossed the finish line first for the 58th time in his career on Sunday on the streets of Detroit.

“The team called it perfectly, perfect strategy,” Dixon said. “The variables make this special. We had cautions, we had rain, you never know how the transitions are going to fall.”

Cautions were a bigger part of the race than many race fans, and IndyCar officials for that matter, probably would have liked. There were eight caution periods encompassing nearly half of the 100 allotted race laps.

The first caution happened on the opening lap heading into the hairpin turn, which would be the problem spot pretty much all day long.

Colton Herta, who started on pole, led the majority of the first stint.

The conversation at that juncture was whether or not you should be on the alternate (green) tires or the primary (black) tires. The black tires were winning the day as the alternate tires were falling off severely, which played into the hands of Herta and Alex Palou who started on the black primaries.

But, mother nature got involved, dropping a pop-up rainshower on the course, which had many drivers choosing to put on rain tires. But, due to a long caution due to what IndyCar said was to “figure out the race order”, the showers departed and the track dried before getting back to green.

Christian Lundgaard and Kyle Kirkwood gained track position by gambling and staying out on slick tires. The long caution paid off for them as they restarted on Lap 41 in the front.

But several more cautions ensured after that, resulting in a multitude of shake-ups in the order. At one point there were more caution laps turned than green racing laps, in all honesty, putting a sour note on what had been tabbed as an entertaining race weekend.

One of the mishaps involved Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou who got tangled on a restart, pushing Palou to a finish outside the top ten for the first time since Portland in 2022.

Palou, the championship leader heading into Detroit, would end up finishing 16th.

Noting these cautions was Dixon’s crew, who had him pit for the final time on Lap 56. Banking on more cautions with how the race was going, they chose to have Dixon stay out til’ the end and bank on a massive fuel-saving strategy.

Keeping with him on that strategy was Marcus Armstrong, who played the role of a consummate teammate for Dixon through the race’s final 31 laps. He held off a charging Kyle Kirkwood and Marcus Ericsson, who were 11 laps to the good on fuel compared to two Ganassi Hondas.

Ericsson would get around Armstrong on the race’s final lap, but he did not have enough time to catch Dixon, who on fumes crossed the start-finish line having gone 44 laps on one tank of fuel.

“We won man! How cool is that,” Dixon said, who now is firmly in the lead for a possible seventh championship. “So stoked for everyone on the team. Until you’re out (of the championship) you’ve gotta push for it.”

Ericsson was second after his dismal showing at the Indianapolis 500. Armstrong held on for third to get his first podium finish of his IndyCar career.

Dixon comes out of Detroit with an 18-point advantage over his teammate Palou in the championship standings.

Will Power, despite being assessed several penalties throughout the race, was able to finish 6th and sits third in the championship standings now 13-points back of Palou.

It’s another quick turn-around for the series as they head west to Road America in the foothills of Wisconsin on June 9th.