Scott Dixon Leads Ganassi 1-2-3 at Pocono

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Until today, Chip Ganassi Racing has had a very uncharacteristic season. The 9 time Indy Car championship winning team had led only 9 laps and only 1 podium going into Pocono. Today, they made a 180 degree turn for the better and Scott Dixon took the checkered flag and led a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium at the Pocono IndyCar 400 fueled by Sunoco. It was the 100th win for team sponsor Target and the 200th win for Honda as well.

“Going into this morning,  I was not thinking we could win,” said Dixon. “The team definitely hasn’t given up, and you’ve got to hand it to Honda as well. I think fuel mileage was the key today. And we still had speed up front without having to save all the time. I don’t know what to say. It’s the 100th win for Target as well, which is just fantastic. I’m just so happy.”

Dixon marched from starting in 17th place and moved forward early. He assumed the lead under green flag pit stops on lap 83 and came in a lap later. His Target Chip Ganassi Racing team gave him a lightning fast 7 second pit stop which allowed him to get out of the pits before the leaders came around. Dixon came up to speed and stayed in the lead pack, and despite contact with Tony Kanaan going for the race lead stayed in the top 5 for the rest of the race and after final pit stops cycled himself to the front of the field.

Kimball matches his best career finish in 2nd after a Charlie Kimball kind of day. He started the day in and ran a quiet race and made some moves as the car got better as the race wore on and was knocking on Dixon’s door at the very end. He crossed the line .457 of a second behind Dixon.

“The car was really good, said Kimball. “We focused a lot on the race car on Thursday, and yesterday even, and so we were not exactly sure what we were going to have in qualifying, but came out all right. I think a lot of credit for today has to go to the team, because we have had a few tough races and to be able to bounce back and be as resilient as we are and they are, to come through with this great a result, is a huge credit to them, and also a lot to Honda working really hard day‑in and day‑out to make improvements for us.  You know, we came here and we had equal horsepower and a lot better fuel mileage, using less fuel to do it.  I think that was key.”

Franchitti’s 3rd place finish is a rebound from yesterday where his car was down on speed in qualifying and his team elected to change engines. From there, Franchitti was 5th quick in final practice and like Dixon methodically marched his way to the front of the pack to take his 1st podium of the year.

“Really it’s one of those races where you’re just taking it every lap, every car you’ve got to try to pass, every pit stop, just taking it one lap at a time,” said Franchitti. “It was a good day, fought ‑‑ as I said, fought every lap, and after the run we’ve had recently on the ovals, it feels very good.”

From the start of the race, hometown hero Marco Andretti had the car to beat. Andretti was faster than any car on the track and it seemed as if nobody could get by the #25 RC Cola Chevrolet. The first of two accidents of the day occurred first on turn 1 of lap 1 when front row starter James Hinchcliffe snapped loose in turn 1 and made contact with the wall. During the second wave of green flag pit stops on lap 61 Takuma Sato locked up the brakes and ran into Ryan Hunter-Reay who was running 2nd at  the time. That brought out the caution and put Tony Kanaan up front for the restart. Andretti passed Kanaan going into turn 1 and continued his blistering pace.

The long green flag run made came down to who got the best fuel mileage, which partly ended up being Andretti’s undoing. He pitted earlier than his competitors on the previous pit stops and had to slow down in order to make it to the end. Coupled with the Honda powered cars getting better fuel mileage than the Chevrolets, Andretti was not able to stay up front.

“Oh man, I mean we knew early (about our fuel mileage), but not early enough,” said Andretti. “I think we should have responded quicker, but it’s so hard to be reserved right now. I’m so frustrated for RC Cola and everybody; we were just so dominant and I’m just absolutely gutted.”

Kanaan’s quest for the Triple Crown looked promising as he stayed in Andretti’s sights for much of the race. Then on lap 107 he made contact with Dixon’s left rear wheel pod. The damage to Kanaan’s wing did not look significant at first, but the Sunoco Racing Team did not want to take a chance and brought Kanaan in to change the wing. He finished in 13th, last car on the lead lap.

Also of note:

Points leader Helio Castroneves finished in 8th and increased his points lead from 9 to 23 over Hunter-Reay.

“Gaining a lot of championship points is fantastic,” said Castroneves. “The Hitachi boys did a hell of a job. It was a tough race, difficult to pass but it required a lot of thinking.” “Great day for the championship that is what we have to think towards.”

Josef Newgarden drove a methodical race as well and came home in 5th after starting 15th , matching his best career finish.

“We had a great day with SFHR,” said Newgarden. “Just and incredible group, great engineers, great mechanics. To get representative results like this that prove what we are putting into this team, I am super pleased for all the guys. It is exactly what we want.”

After dismal races at Iowa and Milwaukee, Simona de Silvestro ended the day in 11th place after starting 9th. It is her best career finish on an oval. Her previous best was 14th at Indianapolis in 2010.

“The car was awesome! It was a really good race,” said de Silvestro. “This is a tricky place; you had to time your passes just right. I had a lot of fun out there and the team was great. They gave me a fantastic car and we were able to move forward and make a lot of moves toward the end of the race. I’m really happy that we were able to get a good result for the Nuclear Clean Air Energy car.”

Finishing Order:

Starting Position in parentheses, Driver, Engine, Laps Completed, Reason out if any

1. (17) Scott Dixon, Honda, 160, Running
2. (12) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 160, Running
3. (20) Dario Franchitti, Honda, 160, Running
4. (4) Will Power, Chevrolet, 160, Running
5. (15) Josef Newgarden, Honda, 160, Running
6. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 160, Running
7. (22) Justin Wilson, Honda, 160, Running
8. (6) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 160, Running
9. (14) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 160, Running
10. (1) Marco Andretti, Chevrolet, 160, Running
11. (9) Simona De Silvestro, Chevrolet, 160, Running
12. (13) James Jakes, Honda, 160, Running
13. (5) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 160, Running
14. (19) Ryan Briscoe, Chevrolet, 159, Running
15. (21) Pippa Mann, Honda, 159, Running
16. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 159, Running
17. (24) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 158, Running
18. (16) Graham Rahal, Honda, 158, Running
19. (10) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 158, Running
20. (2) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 121, Handling
21. (23) EJ Viso, Chevrolet, 104, Handling
22. (7) Takuma Sato, Honda, 61, Accident
23. (18) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevy, 2, Mechanical
24. (3) James Hinchcliffe, Chevrolet, 0, Accident

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 192.864
Time of Race: 02:04:26.4178
Margin of victory: 0.4572 of a second.
Cautions: 2 for 12 laps
Lead changes: 16 among five drivers

Lap Leaders:
Andretti 1 – 29
Kanaan 30 – 31
Power 32 – 33
Kimball 34
Andretti 35 – 60
Kanaan 61 – 62
Power 63 – 65
Kanaan 66 – 71
Andretti 72 – 94
Kanaan 95 – 96
Dixon 97 – 106
Kanaan 107 – 109
Power 110 – 111
Andretti 112 – 121
Power 122 – 129
Kimball 130 – 132
Dixon 133 – 160

Points standings:

  1. Helio Castroneves, 356
  2. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 333, -23
  3. Marco Andretti, 301, -55
  4. Scott Dixon, 291, -65
  5. James Hinchcliffe, 272, -84
  6. Tony Kanaan, 271, -85
  7. Simon Pagenaud, 269, -87
  8. Justin Wilson, 253, -103
  9. Will Power, 242, -114
  10. Takuma Sato, 241, -115
  11. Dario Franchitti, 237, -119
  12. Charlie Kimball, 234, -122
  13. Ed Carpenter, 215, -141
  14. E. J. Viso, 212, -144
  15. Josef Newgarden, 212, -144
  16. Graham Rahal, 194, -162
  17. James Jakes, 190, -166
  18. Simona de Silvestro, 171, -185
  19. Tristan Vautier, 185, -198
  20. Oriol Servia, 151, -205
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