Dixon surges to IndyCar points lead with 2 wins in 8 days

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Even with all the speed, Scott Dixon still
hadn’t led a lap all season when he left Indianapolis last month.

Now with two wins in a span of eight days, four-time IndyCar Series
champ Dixon heads into the back half of the season as the points
leader. Both previous times he won at Texas, like he just did for a
third time with a dominating performance, Dixon also won the season
title.

”We won two races and led a bunch of laps. That’s a positive,”
Dixon said after his win late Saturday night at the 1 1/2-mile
Texas oval, a week after the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing car also
went to Victory Lane in the first race of the Detroit doubleheader.

”We had great speed at the start of the year. I was disappointed
with how it went down at St. Pete, how it went down at Long
Beach,” he said. ”The speed has been there. Unfortunately, we’ve
either made mistakes as a team, I made a mistake. We just didn’t
really hit our stride. It’s nice to finally show the speed the car
has.”

After leading the last 119 laps at Texas in the middle race of the
17-event IndyCar series – with eight before and eight after – Dixon
took over the points lead from Will Power, who dropped to third.
Alexander Rossi moved up a spot to second.

Dixon also quickly broke a tie with Michael Andretti for third-most
wins in Indy-car history with his 43rd career victory, now behind
only A.J. Foyt’s 67 and Mario Andretti’s 52. Dixon, the 37-year-old
from New Zealand, started in CART in 2001 and debuted in IndyCar
two years later with his first season championship.

At this season’s opener in St. Petersburg, Dixon was penalized for
what IndyCar deemed avoidable contact when he ran into the back of
Takuma Sato’s car. He restarted at the rear of the field, and
eventually finished sixth.

In Long Beach, Dixon got a penalty for entering a closed pit lane
during a caution and went on to finish 11th. That is the only time
he’s finished worse than sixth.

While Power and Ed Carpenter, the top two finishers in the
Indianapolis 500, were both called for avoidable contact with
rookies in separate incidents that knocked them out at Texas, there
were no issues at all for Dixon.

Dixon’s official winning margin over Simon Pagenaud was 4.29
seconds, but Dixon was close to lapping the entire field before the
caution on lap 173 of 248, when Carpenter made contact with Robert
Wickens. Dixon was starting to stretch his lead again before Power
collided with Zachary Claman De Melo on lap 205.

With the new sleeker cars and universal aero packages on the Texas
track for the first time, Dixon started steady before finally going
ahead on the 130th lap – the ninth and final lead change of the
race.

”We kind of just played it fairly cool to start with. Car felt
really good out of the box,” Dixon said. ”It’s not too often you
get sort of a runaway, especially in the series at the moment. It
was kind of cool to see for us.”

Dixon also won at Texas in 2008 and 2015 before the track was
repaved and reconfigured in early 2017. He won IndyCar titles both
of those years, with another in 2013.

Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion who finished second last year
behind Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, had his best finish
this year. Pagenaud was 10th or worst five times, and his best
before Texas was a sixth-place showing at the Indianapolis 500.

”It’s never over anyways,” Pagenaud said of the title chase. ”We
saw that last year, Newgarden really started his momentum
midseason, went on and won the championship. I did the same last
year really.”

Much like what Dixon could be doing now.

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