By David Morgan, Associate Editor
NASHVILLE – Scott Dixon knew his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda had the speed in it to win Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, he just needed the chance to show it.
After starting back in 14th place, Dixon would have to overcome some damage early in the race to make it happen, getting caught up in the Lap 26 melee in Turn 7. But Dixon’s crew went to work to get him back in the game and he was able to stay in the fight.
Dixon would make his final pit stop on lap 50 and advanced up to second-place when the yellow flag flew on lap 52, putting him in position to strike.
When race leader Josef Newgarden had to duck off onto pit road under the lap 64 yellow flag, Dixon ascended to the race lead, where he would remain through to the finish.
It wasn’t a walk-off win for Dixon as the yellow flag and a subsequent red flag flew with four laps to go, setting up a green-white-checkered restart for the victory.
Scott McLaughlin, who made an impressive charge from 16th to second by the time the red flag flew, lined up behind Dixon on the restart and gave the wily veteran a run for his money, but Dixon was able to hold him off by 0.1067 seconds.
With the win – the 53rd of his illustrious career – Dixon surpassed Mario Andretti to move into sole possession of second-place on the IndyCar all-time wins list behind AJ Foyt. The victory also moved him just six points out of the points lead with three races to go as he aims for his seventh championship.
“The tough thing all weekend was that I knew the PNC Bank No. 9 was super-fast,” Dixon said. “We proved that in the warm-up. We just didn’t have many consecutive laps, but kudos to the team.
“We had a big crash there. It took half the floor off the car. We had to take four turns of front wing out, so we had no grip. And then I think we did 45 or 50 laps on the last set of tires, so the last stop we didn’t even take tires. Huge credit to Firestone.
“Man, Nashville is so awesome.”
Dixon added that he had to keep an eye on McLaughlin behind him, knowing that if he had the chance, McLaughlin would make a run at the win for himself. Also, noting the limited lap count after the restart played into his favor.
“We were worried about him because I knew he’d take chances,” Dixon said. “He kind of has to with the standings at the moment and he was super-fast as well. Honestly, he had fresh tires too. I was a bit of a sitting duck. I think if there was a lap or two more, it would have been really tough to do. Congrats to him on a great weekend and hopefully that was good for us on points.”
McLaughlin, who grew up with Dixon as one of his heroes, detailed his charge to second after a pit road miscue late in the race, explaining that the strength his Team Penske Chevrolet showed all weekend was a big key for helping him be in the mix when the win was on the line.
“One lap,” McLaughlin said of how much longer he needed to get by Dixon for the win. “We were alongside there crossing the finish line. We were 16th on that last pit exchange and just had an awesome restart. Man, the car was fast. This DEX Imaging Chevy was unreal. Good honest fuel, good power, and just fell short at the end.
“Congrats to Scotty. Always dreamed of racing him to the finish. I know we sort of had that in Texas last year, but that was a proper duel. I had a lot of fun. That’s why I came IndyCar racing. This is the best race in the world.
“I hate coming in second, but it is what it is. I learned a lot today and we’ll focus and get better. I’m really proud of everyone. Proud of myself, proud of my team, proud of everyone. We rebounded and came here with a car that was good enough to challenge for a race win and got a pole. It’s a great weekend. Great points weekend and we’ll just keep pushing the last three races of the year.”
Defending series champion Alex Palou finished the race in third to give Ganassi two cars on the podium, followed by Alexander Rossi in fourth, and Colton Herta in fifth.
Both Rossi and Herta were involved in separate incidents throughout the day, but made charges through the late stages of the race to wind up in the top-five.
Hometown driver Josef Newgarden finished in sixth, with Felix Rosenqvist, Christian Lundgaard, Simon Pagenaud, and Jack Harvey rounding out the top-10.
The race was slowed by eight cautions and one red flag for 36 laps.
Next up for the NTT IndyCar Series will be the final oval race of the season at World Wide Technology Raceway on Saturday, August 20th.