Dixon fuel-saves to second win in a row at Gateway

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Photo credit: Chip Ganassi Racing

The Bommarito 500 started with Josef Newgarden on pole, as the fastest man of the afternoon, teammate Scott McLaughlin, was penalised for an engine change. But while Newgarden and David Malukas had great start, it was Benjamin Pedersen who caused the first caution of the day after being punted by Ed Carpenter. During the yellow a number of backmarkers made a pitstop, where Santino Ferrucci was the first driver to use the red-walled alternate tyre.

The first restart of the afternoon went well, with Will Power gaining quite some positions going around the outside. In the meantime Carpenter served a 30 second stop-and-hold penalty for his first lap antics, dropping him three laps down.

For the remainder of the first stint the drivers seemed to have agreed on a non-aggression pact, as little to no effort was made to gain any places. Newgarden was controlling his pace and thereby the race, balancing the gap to Colton Herta behind and the gap to the backmarkers in front.

Former winner Takuma Sato was the first to go to pitlane in lap 52, dropping back a lap in the process. The Japanese driver was lacking all kinds of grip, and in the ensuing traffic jam Herta loses a few spots to Malukas and the McLarens. He immediately enters pitlane for a stop. He is joined by Rinus VeeKay and super-sub Conor Daly, followed a lap later by Álex Palou, who switches to the red tyre.

Calum Ilott’s first stop was a bit longer as his right sight needed to be checked after a brush with the wall, stopping again a lap later to retire. In the following laps everyone stops, with both Pato O’Ward and Newgarden switching to the alternates as well. Will Power and Scott Dixon are the last of the front runners to make their stops, with last race’s winner also opting for the softer compound.

O’Ward puts his red tyre to good use, passing Herta for second place. He immediately starts to close the gap to Newgarden. Sting Ray Robb has a close encounter with the turn 2 wall, hindering Power in the process so that VeeKay can pass him for tenth.

Halfway through the second stint it’s Newgarden and O’Ward in a league of their own, with Herta being seven seconds behind the lead, closely followed by Malukas and Felix Rosenqvist. Romain Grosjean is the first one to come in for his second stop, albeit a bit early. Linus Lundqvist follows, with both drivers dropping the red tyre in favour of the black, harder compound. Sato has a little moment, but misses the wall.

Next to stop is Power just after Palou is passed by McLaughlin. The leaders follow, but Newgarden stays comfortably ahead of O’Ward, but with a little help of teammate Rosenqvist that gap is closed quickly. O’Ward attempts an overtake, but Newgarden defends. The Indy 500 winner is later helped by Carpenter who forces himself in this battle and subsequently blocks O’Ward.

After the pitstops it’s Malukas who passes cars left, right and center, and just when the pitstops are coming to an end it is Sato who has his third and final scrappy moment, as he crashes into the turn 2 wall, bringing out the second caution of the day. This is good timing for Dixon who still had to make a stop. Several others join him, and it’s teammate Marcus Ericsson who loses his left wheel, requiring him to be pushed back to his pit stall.

The initial restart was deemed invalid by race control, but with the second attempt it was O’Ward who got a good run on Newgarden, but couldn’t captialise on the opportunity after a little contact. Agustín Canapino and VeeKay also had a little scrap, which was ended by a stop-and-go penalty for the Argentine for running into Malukas’ pit crew during the stops.

In lap 165 O’Ward opens the next run of pitstops, prompting Newgarden to follow a lap later. The rest of the field follows duly, with the exception of Dixon, Ericsson and Herta. O’Ward passed Newgarden in that exchange, taking the virtual lead of the race.

Approaching lap 190 Dixon and Grosjean seem to be on a fuel-saving strategy, with both receiving some encouraging words from their strategist on their fuel number. Power stops in lap 191, requiring another caution to make it to the end on this fuel. Dixon and Grosjean follow in lap 196, which means that they would also like to have another caution to make it to the end.

This makes O’Ward the new leader, with Newgarden close behind. But with both needing another stop, their 12 second lead over Dixon will not be enough. Newgarden stops with 52 laps to go, attempting an undercut on O’Ward, but when pushing behind a backmarker he loses control and hits the wall.

The caution doesn’t come out, and Malukas and McLaughlin have contact, sending the Kiwi towards the wall. McLauglin keeps his Dallara on track, but he loses quite some positions. O’Ward takes the opportunity to make his final stop, meaning he will have a 25 second gap to close to Dixon.

With 25 laps to go the gap is still some 20 seconds between Dixon and O’Ward, with Power and Kyle Kirkwood inbetween. The latter two however really need a caution to make their strategy work. Lundqvist has a scary moment as Malukas forces himself past, making the Swede lose a heap of momentum.

Ten laps later the gap is still over 20 seconds, and it looks like that O’Ward is not going to make it. Power and Kirkwood stop for a splash-and-dash, leaving just Dixon and O’Ward in the lead lap. Malukas unlaps himself a little later in a bid to repeat his podium from last year. Power overtakes a few more cars before the chequered flags, utilising his tyre advantage.

Scott Dixon eventually manages to fuel-save himself to victory, putting O’Ward and Malukas almost a lap down. Alexander Rossi finishes fourth in front of McLaughlin and Herta. Dixon’s teammate Palou ends up in seventh ahead of Rosenqvist and Power, with the other teammate Ericsson completes the top ten.