Dixon Wins At Watkins Glen; All But Two Drivers Eliminated from Championship Contention

Photo Credit: IndyCar

Scott Dixon, who drivers a Chevrolet-powered car for Chip Ganassi Racing, took the checkered flag for his 2nd victory of the season, 40th of his IndyCar career, and 4th at Watkins Glen in today’s IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.

Dixon won the race by 16.5308 seconds over Josef Newgarden, making this margin of victory the highest since the 2009 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio when Scott Dixon beat Ryan Briscoe to the finish line by 29.780 seconds. Helio Castroneves, Conor Daly, and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top 5 finishing positions. Conor Daly was the highest finishing driver of a Honda-powered car. You can see full race results at IndyCar.com

The race turned into a fuel-saving race towards the end of the race, with James Hinchcliffe, who was running in 2nd place, running out of fuel and finishing in 18th place after literally hitching a ride with 5th place finisher Sebastien Bourdais after Bourdais had come around the track again after finishing the race.

Pretty much everybody except for Takuma Sato, Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, and Juan Pablo Montoya had to slow down to save fuel towards the end of the race. Those drivers decided to not pit under the last yellow to cycle to the front of the field in hopes that all of the other drivers would have to pit again. That strategy did not pay off, and the highest finisher of those 4 drivers was Munoz, who finished in 11th place. Sato and Montoya both spun out in the closing laps of the race, but both were able to continue on.

Helio Castroneves, who was running towards the front of the field, made a short, late pit stop to get a little bit of extra fuel, and it paid off, as he was able to work his way back into the top 3 for a 3rd place finish due to no longer having to save fuel.

The race featured a total of 8 lead changes among 6 different drivers. Race winner and polesitter Scott Dixon led the most laps with 50 laps led out of the 60 total laps raced around the 11-turn 3.40-mile natural terrain road course.

The start of the race featured drivers trying to go 4-wide into turn 1, and that did not work out. Mikhail Aleshin, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Sebastien Bourdais all spun out while the other drivers tried to avoid hitting them, but all 3 of those drivers were able to continue on in the race. There was no full course caution for this opening lap incident.

The race also featured a total of 3 caution flag periods for a duration of 9 laps. The first caution flag of the race came out on lap 15 when the left rear tire on Mikhail Aleshin’s Honda-powered car exploded and sent the car spinning into the wall at the exit of turn 4.

The second caution flag of the race came out lap 20 when last week’s Texas race winner Graham Rahal made slight contact with Charlie Kimball when the two drivers were racing for positions at the exit of turn 1, sending Rahal straight into the barrier right at the exit of the pits.

The final caution flag came out on lap 39 when Charlie Kimball and Will Power got together on the backstretch. Kimball went to make a move on Power and Power appeared to block him. The front of Kimball’s car made slight contact with the rear of Power’s car, sending Power’s car  into the wall and leaving Kimball’s car undamaged. Power was taken to the infield medical center and held for a while for extra concussion testing. The hit Power suffered not a hard hit, but it was into a steel barrier that was not a SAFER barrier nor a barrier protected by tires.

Power suffered a concussion back in March in a hard crash during practice for the first race of this season in St. Petersburg, Florida that forced him to miss that race, dealing him an early blow to his championship hopes due to the fact that he only scored one point that weekend for taking the pole position for that race. He climbed back to within 20 points of Pagenaud for the championship lead after a string of 6 consecutive top 2 finishes that included 4 victories, but the past two races have put Power further behind Pagenaud in the standings and dealt him a big blow to his championship hopes.

On top of that, Power must clear concussion protocol before being allowed to compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series again. Luckily, the next race is not for another two weeks, so he should have some time to recover. But at 35 years of age, two concussions in one season for Power may make him really think long and hard his future in this demanding and risky sport he calls his job. He still has the talent to compete, but the question is about his health.

The conclusion of this race eliminated all drivers except for Simon Pagenaud and Will Power from winning this season’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Pagenaud leads Power by 43 points heading into the final race of the season at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, but double points will be on offer for that race. Pagenaud has held the series points lead since the end of the 2nd race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.

Last season, Scott Dixon won the championship for the 4th time in his IndyCar career even though he came into the final race at Sonoma trailing championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya by 47 points.

Will Power last won the IndyCar championship in 2014, which is his only IndyCar championship to date. Pagenaud has never won an IndyCar championship.

The next and final Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season will take place on Sunday, September 18th, at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. The race will be broadcast at 6:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network and will start at 6:50 PM ET. This race will decide the 2016 IndyCar champion.

-Asher Fair