By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – There’s a reason they call him “The Iceman.”
On a day in which he took over sole possession of the record for consecutive starts in the NTT IndyCar Series, it appeared Scott Dixon’s race may have been over before it ever really started when he was spun on the opening lap of the race, but never say never when it comes to the six-time series champion.
The opening lap misfortune may have instead been a blessing in disguise as Dixon was able to pit on Lap 5, swap the primary Firestones for the alternates and set his sights on climbing back through the field.
Dixon ascended to the lead on two different occasions before taking over the top spot for the final time on lap 64. Though it seemed Dixon was going to just walk away with the victory to make it 19 straight seasons that he has scored a win, pole sitter Graham Rahal made him work for it down the stretch.
Rahal returned to the track following his final pit stop some seven seconds in arears of Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank sponsored machine, but the driver of the No. 15 Honda was a man on a mission, chewing up the deficit between the two with each passing lap.
Working his way through a few stubborn lapped cars, Rahal was able to eventually close the gap to within one second of Dixon with the checkered flag in sight, but by then it was too little, too late to make a difference as he could only watch Dixon cross the line ahead of him to take home the win.
“It’s been a strange year for us. I think we had lots of opportunity at different races. It’s just never really converted. Yeah, crazy day” Dixon said.
“Obviously for me, I felt like I had a fantastic start. I think I picked up maybe five or six spots, then got to turn seven and there was a bit of a backup there, just got spun around.
“Now I can say I got a spin and win at Indy, which is pretty cool. I know it’s on the road course and doesn’t count, but I’ll still go with that story (smiling)…
“Feels good. Feels damn good to get this win. Feel sorry for Graham. But, yeah, this is cool.”
While it was the thrill of victory for Dixon, it was the agony of defeat for Rahal, who was left to wonder what more could have been done to trade positions with Dixon and be the driver getting the celebratory lift to Victory Lane.
“I thought we did all right today. But that’s the way racing goes,” Rahal said. “I was worried a little last night that we didn’t have three sets of reds to use. We had a blister on the left front qualifying set. Not really sure why. It wasn’t a flat spot or anything. Unfortunately, it made it so that set wasn’t usable for us today.
“I knew that the two middle stints on black, I was going to have to drive the wheels off of it just to maintain my gap. We were able to do that and actually pull a little bit more of a gap.
“Again, Dixie, through that middle stint, all the stints had reds, just blacks to reds, chasing down the best ever to do this, it’s not an easy thing.
“We got that last stint, and I knew we were going to have to make a lot of time. Catching him about 7/10ths a lap. Traffic came into play. It is what it is.
“At the end of the day, we have nothing to be ashamed of. I thought we laid it all on the line, did a great job as an organization this weekend. To get a podium in a year like this obviously feels good. To get a win would have been better, but that’s the way this goes.”
Pato O’Ward finished the race in third for his sixth podium finish of the season, followed by Christian Lundgaard in fourth, and Alexander Rossi rounding out the top-five.
“A fricking win would be great,” O’Ward said with a grin after the race.
“I’ve been driving my ass off every single race. Like, there is nothing more than I want than to get wins. Obviously, there’s been little things here and there that have got us out of contention and out of being able to kind of capitalize on that.
“With like the performance of today, I’m very pleased. I’m just tired. I’m just very pleased with today, very happy with how the team and I attacked because I was playing around with Graham in the warm-up, and he was just stronger than me. I know he was. I knew it was going to be a tall ask, just from outright pace, to try and beat them.
“But I was very happy with my car balance. I was very happy with every other call. Yeah, we just got to keep pushing.”
Current IndyCar Series points leader Alex Palou finished the race in seventh place to increase his points lead to 101 markers over Dixon, who took over second in the standings from Josef Newgarden after Newgarden also got caught up in the Lap 1 crash and would wind up finishing 25th on the day.
Just three races remain in the 2023 IndyCar campaign as the series next heads to the final oval race of the season at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on August 27th before heading to the West Coast to wrap up the year.