In the heat of the desert, the “Ice Man” lived up to his nickname by remaining cool all the way to Victory Lane. In the process, he attached his name to another Indy car legend.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon won the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix in the series’ return to Phoenix International Raceway following an 11-year absence. It is the 39th career win for the New Zealander, tying him with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser for fourth on the all-time Indy car victories list.
It also gives Dixon, a four-time series champ, a race win in 12 consecutive seasons to set a record all his own. The 35-year-old was previously tied with wins in 11 straight seasons with Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Helio Castroneves.
“It’s mind-boggling, for sure,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “For me, I feel very privileged to be racing, being an Indy car driver, being part of the Verizon IndyCar Series, and then being part of Team Target.
“All my wins except for one have been with this team. I hope we can continue to build on it and the numbers are great. It sounds a bit strange when you hear the names that we’re amongst them fighting on the wins list.”
Dixon was one of three race leaders in the 250-lap event, pacing the field for the final 155 laps. The race ended under caution after rookie Alexander Rossi made contact with the wall two laps from the finish.
It was the first career win at PIR for Dixon and the first for the Ganassi team at PIR in any race series. It was also Ganassi’s 101st Indy car win.
“It was tough, definitely one of the toughest races on these short ovals,” Dixon said. “The car was super-fast. I think we had the best car out there on strategies and pit stops.”
Simon Pagenaud, in the No, 22 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet, finished second for the second consecutive race and took the lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings for the first time in his career. Pagenaud has 83 points and leads Dixon by four.
“That’s good news,” Pagenaud said. “That’s exactly what we want to do. This is not our strong suit, short ovals, but if we can be strong, that’s a good sign.”
Will Power, who missed the season opener three weeks ago at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with an inner ear infection, finished third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“I’m really happy to finish third. Missing the first race and dealing with a few health issues, I was just happy to complete the race in a great position,” Power said. “I got more energy as I went along.”
Tony Kanaan finished fourth in the No. 10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Graham Rahal was the top-finishing Honda driver, placing fifth in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“It was tough to pass,” Rahal said. “I felt like I had a really good race car. Unfortunately, our competition had about a 5 mph advantage on us, I feel like. I was just doing everything I could to get it.”
The highest-finishing rookie was Max Chilton, who was seventh in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race on an oval in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
“Chip Ganassi gave me a fantastic car,” Chilton said. “Obviously, Scott won this event, TK (Kanaan) flew past me with about 10-15 (laps) to go, so maybe I didn’t have necessarily the fastest car, but I think as a team we had a very, very strong car.”
Team Penske pilots Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya set the pace early, but both had to pit from the lead with flat right-front tires. Castroneves led the first 39 laps from the pole in the No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet and Montoya, who won the St. Pete season opener, led the next 56 laps in the No. 2 Verizon Chevy.
1. (6) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 250, Running
2. (10) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 250, Running
3. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 250, Running
4. (2) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 250, Running
5. (19) Graham Rahal, Honda, 250, Running
6. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 250, Running
7. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 250, Running
8. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 250, Running
9. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 250, Running
10. (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 250, Running
11. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 250, Running
12. (4) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 250, Running
13. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 250, Running
14. (14) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 250, Running
15. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 249, Running
16. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 249, Running
17. (13) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 248, Running
18. (22) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running
19. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 246, Running
20. (16) Luca Filippi, Honda, 243, Running
21. (5) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 195, Contact
22. (21) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 116, Contact