By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
There wasn’t a Texas-sized sweep for NTT IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon, who finished fourth in Sunday’s XPEL 375.
Right out of the gate, it appeared Saturday’s race winner would have another dominant afternoon as he was in a league of his own early on.
Dixon ended up leading a race-high 163 of 248 laps, but the second half painted a different tale. As a couple of determined racers in Graham Rahal and Pato O’Ward certainly made things difficult for the six-time champion.
Most notably the former, who made an outside pass in Turn 4 at the end of Lap 140 and took the lead. Rahal’s pass showcased that passing can be done at the 1.5-mile oval, something that hasn’t occurred up front in recent races.
The ever calm competitor fought back and pulled the same maneuver on Lap 153. Dixon held onto the top spot until pitting for the last time on Lap 187 with Rahal hot on his tail. They exited as the were, but O’Ward was well ahead of them. Two laps later, Rahal repassed Dixon on the high side of Turn 4 and never really looked back.
Dixon’s afternoon changed from there as he never regained the lead nor be in contention for the win. It was essentially solidified a lap later when the caution came out for Felix Rosenqvist. His right rear wheel came off in Turn 3, bringing out the final caution of the race.
The once dominant car was stuck in traffic as Dixon restarted fifth with 51 to go. When the dust finally settled, O’Ward went on to score his long-awaited maiden win. Dixon missed out on a podium and shared his thoughts on his afternoon. Notably, how fuel conservation ultimately becoming his kryptonite for the day.
“It was very tough and confusing at some points,” said Dixon. “Nobody wanted to lead and we got to a point after a caution where we have to make a number. Instead of where we be running 214s (mph) on average to back it down to 204s, 203s.
“Graham kind of slowed us at one point below 200. We retook the lead, but we were burning fuel and gave everyone else more of an advantage,” Dixon continued. “Josef got lucky with the caution in the pits. Pato did a great job and huge congratulations to him.”
While the vibe was rather disappointing, he’ll enter the Month of May at Indianapolis with a 22-point lead over Sunday’s winner.
“What (Pato) did at the end was a tremendous drive. Especially over one of the best guys in the field (in Newgarden). Huge congrats to him. Hopefully he calms down a little bit and doesn’t make it too often.”
Dixon will look to become the first repeat winner Saturday, May 15 for the running of the GMR Grand Prix. Last year, he was able to score the victory at the Indy road course which marked his third of four wins.
“Terrific weekend for us. Lots of good points we’re leaving here heading into Indianapolis,” Dixon’s last thoughts on the Texas doubleheader. “Leading the points which is good, but it’s going to be tough and a lot of hard work to come.”