David Turner gives us his insights on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series….
No one can say that the IndyCar season will not be a riper in 2016 that’s for sure. The first oval race of the season was a great indication to many things that lie ahead this season and while only a 1.5 mile oval and not a Super Speedway of 2 or 2.5 miles it showed that once again to win this championship one must finish races.
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. In the heat of the desert, the “Ice Man”( Dixon) lived up to his nickname by remaining cool all the way to Victory Lane. In the process, he attached his name to another IndyCar legend.
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 and when you stop and think of that it is a simply an amazing stat. A win in every season for 12 years that when you pause and think on it is simply outstanding and clearly shows the talent he has and he’s not done yet either. The 35-year-old kiwi 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.” The normally super fit Dixon looked like he had earned it today when he stepped from the car and while not unfit intact very clearly far from it he certainly looked like he had given it heaps on the high G load circuit.
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.”
Of note to me was the overall performance for the Ganassi squad with the highest-finishing rookie Max Chilton, who was seventh in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race on an oval in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. A great start to his IndyCar season and the start of racing on an oval.
“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.”
The pace setters from qualifying and early in the race Team Penske drivers Hello Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya both had to pit from the lead with flat right-front tires and something that made one wonder if it was a team related set up but there was nothing that clearly showed this.
Is it a form guide to the 100th indy 500 maybe but in many ways its a guide to the season and the main players have all said we are ready and fighting and the rookies are saying don’t count us out either.
Next stop for the IndyCar series is the down town streets of Long Beach a track that Dixon has had highs and lows at but 2015 provided the high. The big one too is the planned open test at the Indy Motor Speedway in the coming week but remember that the track has not been used since last year so it will be very green after the snow of the winter in the Midwest so its very hard to read too much into the times that will come out of the test. i will have them all for you right here as they happen however.
The official results from the Saturday Night in the US Phoenix Grand Prix event on the 1.022-mile Phoenix International Raceway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
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
Winners average speed: 139.822
Time of Race: 1:49:38.3855
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 6 for 55 laps
Lead changes: 2 among 3 drivers
Castroneves 1 – 39
Montoya 40 – 95
Dixon 96 – 250
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 83, Dixon 79, Montoya 74, Hunter-Reay 56, Kanaan 54, Castroneves 53, Rahal 44, Aleshin 43, Sato 43, Chilton 39.