Dixon performs spin-and-win to get victory in 19th consecutive season

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Photo credit: Chip Ganassi Racing

Prior to the start of the third Indianapolis race of the season there were some get-away issues for last race’s winner Kyle Kirkwood, but after some intervention by his team he was able to slot back into position before the start. And what a start it was for Devlin DeFrancesco who took the lead from fifth place on the grid.

After Will Power went straight in the chicane it was Marcus Armstrong who got turned around in turn 7 by championship leader Álex Palou. In the resulting chaos Romain Grosjean tapped Scott Dixon around before hitting Armstrong. Josef Newgarden also couldn’t evade Armstrong and ended up on his right front wheel, without a front wing.

The first caution of the day was called, and somewhere in the action Colton Herta picked up a left rear puncture, forcing him to pit. Newgarden and Armstrong also visited their team, dropping all of them a lap down in the process. All those involved in the first lap chaos, plus David Malukas and Benjamin Pedersen, made a tactical pitstop to top up their fuel before the pack was released again.

The restart was less hectic than the first start, with only Alexander Rossi picking up a place from Christian Lundgaard. Graham Rahal quickly retook the lead from DeFranceso the next lap, with Rossi following later in the lap. Meanwhile Palou passes Kirkwood for eighthplace, knowing that a good result might give him a shot at the title next race in Gateway.

DeFrancesco slowly falls back through the ranks with Felix Rosenqvist passing the Canadian for fifth place in lap 12. Later in the lap Palou tries to pass Francesco as well, but the Andretti driver defends and the two make contact, dropping Palou back behind Kirkwood.

Up front Lundgaard re-passes Pato O’Ward for the podium, and a lap later Palou is back on DeFrancesco’s tail and passing him for seventh. Marcus Ericsson is also on a move, going past Kirkwood.

At the start of lap 15 Kirkwood, Will Power, Calum Ilott and Malukas stop for an undercut, one lap later followed by Rosenqvist, Jack Harvey and Rinus VeeKay, among others. Santino Ferrucci also stops, but he got tangled with a tyre gun, prompting him to stop in the fast lane. The gun get’s removed, but a stop-and-go-penalty was unavoidable.

O’Ward also stops, and drops back behind Grosjean. One lap later early leader DeFrancesco stops, but he eventually drops back behing VeeKay. Second place Rossi stops in Lap 22, attempting an undercut on leader Rahal. The top three is pushing with personal bests for all of them, trying to defend from Rossi. And just when he hits backmarker Newgarden he stops for fuel and a set of the black (hard) tyres. He re-enters the track right in front of Rossi and manages to fend him off.

Palou, Ericsson and Lundgaard all stop in the following laps, restoring the order up front, except for Dixon and Grosjean, who are on different strategies. Lundgaard got back on track right behind Rossi, and at the end of the following lap the Dane is past the Arrow McLaren driver. Further back in the pack it’s Herta challenging his teammate DeFrancesco for 16th place, and passes him eventually.

Dixon eventually stops in lap 33, handing the first place back to Rahal, who has a small lead over teammate Lundgaard. The pole sitter from the race in May slowly closes the gap, while both increase their advantage over the Arrow McLarens of Rossi and O’Ward, with the latter passing the former in lap 37, just as Power makes his second stop.

VeeKay and Kirkwood follow the next lap, following Power in a three stop strategy. All Arrow McLarens stop one lap later, also committing themselves to three stops. Lundgaard in the meantime has closed up on Rahal, with Palou a significant distance back in third. Palou stops for the second time just over the halfway mark, dropping back behind two of the Arrow McLarens.

With the field settling in their respective strategies, it looked like Rahal and Lundgaard were settling on two stops, but with Rahal stopping in lap 49 it looks like a third stop is required. Dixon passed Rahal for second place and with both needing another stop it looks like the Kiwi is in contention.

Lundgaard follows his teammate in lap 51, making a two stop only feasible with either lots of fuel saving or a caution. This puts Dixon in the lead, but with him needing to stop sooner (and longer) than Rahal a battle for first place is imminent. Rahal is clearly pushing, shown by the huge moment he has in turn 13, but the distance to Dixon remains a little under seven seconds.

Scott Dixon makes his final pitstop in lap 60, dropping him back to twelfth. Rossi follows two laps later with McLaughlin, Power and teammate Rosenqvist joining him in pitlane. Another lap later O’Ward stops together with Lundgaard, and they rejoin in the same order as they went in. Rahal continues for one more lap, but then also joins the action in the pit, dropping him about seven seconds behind Dixon.

Rahal does seem to bring the required speed to challenge Dixon, while VeeKay passes Rosenqvist for 10th. The ECR car does however produce some smoke, while the lowest classified Arrow McLaren seems to have some issues with the gearbox, as he is passed by compatriots Ericsson and Lundqvist in the following laps. Rosenqvist retires a few laps later.

Rahal’s charge is briefly held up when he encounters some backmarkers, with Armstrong rolling out the red carpet in turn 3. Right away, the gap reduces quickly, and with 10 laps to go the gap is just under three seconds. Three laps later the gap is reduced to just under two seconds, but the backmarkers could be a lifeline for Dixon.

With four laps to go, the gap is just over a second, with no more backmarkers between the two and early leader DeFrancesco in front of Dixon. The Canadian lets both of them past, giving the audience a battle for the lead with three laps to go and just half a second between the two. A small mistake by Rahal in the final complex makes him lose the connection with Dixon, and a last lap attempt of Rahal to get close can’t keep Dixon from his 19th consecutive season with a victory.

So in the end it’s Scott Dixon who wins in his 319th consecutive race after being spun around by Grosjean. Rahal is second after a heroic attempt to re-pass Dixon and O’Ward rounds up the podium. Lundgaard finishes fourth in front of Rossi and Power, who passed Palou late in the race. Behind Palou it’s McLaughlin, Kirkwood and Ericsson, who managed to pass VeeKay for tenth.