FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Scott Dixon finished first in a race of two New Zealanders, the veteran six-time IndyCar champion ahead of the series rookie racing in his debut on an oval track.
“Definitely the most happy I’ve ever been finishing second,” Scott McLaughlin said.
It was another dominating victory for Dixon at Texas Motor Speedway, winning Saturday night in the first of two races on consecutive days at the series’ first oval this season. He passed Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and polesitter Alex Palou at the start of the third lap and went on to lead 206 of 212 laps for his 51st career victory, the fifth at the high-banked, 1 1/2-mile track in the Lone Star State.
The 40-year-old Dixon finished .2646 seconds ahead of McLaughlin, the 27-year-old Team Penske driver and three-time defending Australian V8 Supercars champion.
“That guy in front of me, Scott Dixon, is a legend in this sport. … It was very special for me and for New Zealand,” McLaughlin said.
“Huge result for a race for a couple of Kiwis, which is great to see,” Dixon said. “He’s going to have a lot of victories. I’ve got to try to hold him off while I can.”
McLaughlin will race in his first Indianapolis 500 later this month in the No. 3 famed “yellow submarine” driven by past winners Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves.
Dixon moved within one of matching Mario Andretti’s 52 victories for the second-most on the career list that A.J. Foyt tops with 67. Dixon has now won a race in 19 different seasons, breaking a tie with Foyt for the most. Dixon last year won his sixth season title, one short of Foyt’s record seven.
“I never dreamed of that. I feel so lucky and so privileged to do what I get to do,” Dixon said.
Pato O’Ward finished third, with Palou fourth ahead of Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden. There have been three different winners in the three IndyCar races this season.
Dixon is the first driver to win consecutive IndyCar races at Texas, which has now hosted 33 races — the 34th comes Sunday — in the track’s 25 seasons. He won last June in what was the opener in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
“Definitely stressful at the end there. But it was definitely kind of fun when I looked on the steering wheel to see it was the 3 car,” Dixon said. “We just had one of those races where, you know, everything kind of tipped over in our favor.”
IndyCar moved up the start of the race 35 minutes because of the increasing threat of rain deeper into the evening, though it was still dry long after the checkered flag. Qualifying was canceled earlier in the day because of overnight rain and morning mist that created a damp track that took a long time to dry before a single practice session.
The series opened May by racing for the third consecutive weekend, with a planned 690 miles in Texas in two races on consecutive days. The race scheduled late Sunday afternoon is set for 248 laps (372 miles), when there should be no weather issues.
With Sunday’s field set by driver’s points, Dixon will start on the pole with teammate Palou next to him on the front row.
The last time an IndyCar race had been run outside of Indianapolis in May was at Sao Paulo in Brazil in 2013. The only other times were 2010 at Kansas and 2012 in Brazil.
BOURDAIS BUMPED OUT
Sebastien Bourdais was done on lap 56 when the No. 14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt checked up for a slowing Colton Herta in front of him coming out of Turn 2 and was hit from behind by Newgarden.
“Very strange, like his car just fell off the cliff,” Bourdais said of Herta in front of him. “That set up a chain reaction that we got the short end of.”
Bourdais, who was running sixth at the time, spun and the car backed hard into the outside wall. He finished last in the 24-car field.
Newgarden was penalized for unavoidable contact and sent to the back of the field on the restart, though did recover to finish sixth.
HINCH’S HARD CONTACT
James Hinchcliffe got loose and crashed hard into the wall on lap 159, ending the night for No. 29 Honda for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport with sponsor Genesys, the race’s title sponsor.
Hinchliffe said he had been struggling with a vibration and was trying to stay on the lead when the air got taken off his car when Felix Rosenqvist came down on a pass.
AFTER/BEFORE THE 500
Texas was the first race after the Indianapolis 500 from its initial event in 1997 through 2005, and was after Indy every time until last year.
Until this weekend, every TMS race was run in June, though the 2016 race got started in June before getting red-flagged because of rain and not being completed until late August.
During the pandemic last year, Texas was the season opener when run in its normal June slot. That was 2 1/2 months before the Indianapolis 500, which is back in its traditional Memorial Day weekend slot this year.