A rare mistake by five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in the first of two races on Detroit’s Belle Isle was made up for in a big way with a victory in Sunday’s Race 2.
No stranger to victory at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, Dixon notched his third win on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street circuit and the 45th of his illustrious Indy car career. While he’s still shy of both Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt, Dixon ranks third on the all-time win list.
Bouncing back from Saturday’s disastrous last-place finish that saw the one-time championship leader earn just eight points and fall to fifth in the standings, Dixon and his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing team executed a bold strategy early in Sunday’s 70-lap race that might have paid immediate dividends had he not started on alternate Firestone Firehawk tires.
The race’s Lap 1 caution that took out Tony Kanaan prompted most of the field to pit early to shed red-sidewalled alternate rubber for primary tires. Dixon and former teammate Max Chilton were two of the drivers that elected to stay out on alternates and both paid the price. Designed by Firestone to be fast for a few laps but fall off quickly, both drivers abandoned the strategy. The miscue switched Dixon from a bold two-stop strategy to a more conventional three-stop approach.
The race’s third caution on Lap 33 put the race back in Dixon’s hands when he cycled to the front under caution. Dixon’s second pit stop on Lap 46 under green-flag conditions dropped him out of the lead for only five laps. After retaking it on Lap 50, he led the remainder of the 70-lap event, including through a late-race red flag on Lap 65 when his rookie teammate Felix Rosenqvist made heavy contact in Turn 1 after damaging his car with a brush of the wall two turns before.
Dixon was tasked with keeping Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Marcus Ericsson at bay during the final four green-flag laps. Winning for his first time in 2019, the reigning IndyCar champion kept the former Formula One pilot 1.9419 seconds behind as they took the second checkered flag of the weekend.
Ericsson’s runner-up finish marks an improvement on his previous best result of seventh at Barber Motorsports Park. Just a few car lengths up the track, Dixon netted 53 points and advanced one position in the championship standings to fourth with a total of 264.
While Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden finished a disappointing 18th after tangling with James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi in Turn 3, he retained the championship lead with a healthy 52-point advantage over Dixon.
On a rebound of his own after a challenging month of May and first Detroit race, Will Power salvaged a third-place finish after being involved in the Lap 1 incident and then losing power on track during the subsequent caution period.
Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rossi completed the top five. Rossi’s result moved him up to second in the points with 15 markers separating him from Newgarden.
The series will transition from tree-lined streets to the high-banked turns of Texas Motor Speedway for the second superspeedway race of 2019 on June 8. The race will take place under the lights with live coverage beginning on NBCSN at 8 p.m. EDT.