until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Dixon pulls off Long Beach win that should've been impossible

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Scott Dixon pulled off another trademark fuel-saving extravaganza to win at Long Beach while IndyCar championship leader Josef Newgarden’s charge after him was spoilt by being hit by Colton Herta, and Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire starred in 11th on his series debut.

Newgarden’s Penske team-mate Will Power made a beautiful move at the start, at first ducking in behind polesitter Felix Rosenqvist and then diving back out of the draft to take the lead around the outside of Turn 1.

Rosenqvist - who’d taken pole by 0.0039s over Power - has had a fantastic start to the year but his Meyer Shank team’s apparent issue with keeping its tyres alive appeared to strike again as he was back to sixth inside the first 10 laps.

Power built a 7.1s lead before the first caution struck on lap 15 of 85 for Ed Carpenter’s reigning Indy NXT champion Christian Rasmussen having a crash which looked like it was caused by some sort of failure.

Incredibly, Power pitted under the caution, which meant he’d need to save extreme amounts of fuel in order to get to the end of the race on one more stop from there. His Penske team-mate Newgarden stayed out, as did 11 others. But Dixon followed Power's plan.

Soon after the caution, Power was passed by Dixon who took over the lead of the alternate strategy while the Newgarden-led group on the less conservative strategy began to pit around the 30th lap of 85.

Staying out longer allowed Herta and Alex Palou to jump Marcus Ericsson, with Palou narrowly holding off Ericsson in an epic battle with the former defending on cold tyres. Ericsson almost put himself in the wall at Turn 8 but risked just the right amount to stay in the race albeit behind his ex-team-mate.

Dixon extended a 7s lead over Power in the next stint before pitting, while Newgarden’s group pumped in the race’s best laps trying to gap Dixon knowing that it would be close in relation to Dixon once they had made their last stop.

But Newgarden’s pace was absolutely incredible as he nailed another race-best lap just before pitting on lap 58, and emerged just over four seconds behind with just under 30 laps remaining and much fresher tyres.

It took longer to catch Dixon than Newgarden would have liked and being stuck in Dixon’s dirty air brought Herta and Palou back into the equation from over three seconds back themselves and substantial traffic ahead of the group complicated the finish further.

On lap 77 of 85 a concertina effect meant Herta went into the back of Newgarden who exited slowly in anti-stall mode from the hairpin, allowing Herta and Palou through to fight Dixon.

Newgarden clearly felt Herta was to blame, and Herta admitted to misjudging the speed entering the corner, saying he didn’t like to race like that and took responsibility, even though he wasn’t penalised by IndyCar.

It was Herta who emerged as the only one to challenge but despite the fuel saving, Dixon set his fastest lap on the penultimate lap and held off Herta for an almighty win.

Dixon was no doubt boosted by a Honda upgrade part that hasn’t been rolled out to all cars yet, as the manufacturer races to get enough parts ready for all its challengers after seeing the benefits, which helped it have a much better qualifying compared to round one where Chevrolet had dominated.

Herta headed Palou, with Newgarden relegated to fourth ahead of Power but leading the championship by 12 points from Dixon.

Last year’s winner Kyle Kirkwood rose from 10h on the grid to seventh, ahead of Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Romain Grosjean bagging a first top 10 at his new team, then Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi.

Reigning F2 champion Pourchaire gave an absolutely spectacular account of himself, taking 11th on his IndyCar debut with Arrow McLaren.

Pourchaire started 22nd and moved up to 18th before the first caution, where he mirrored Newgarden’s strategy and didn’t pit.

In the final stint, he stuck with team-mate Rossi, who had been punted by the other Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward in the opening stages - which earned O’Ward a drivethrough penalty and Rossi an extra pitstop.

But Pourchaire managed a better overall best lap time than Rossi and scythed through the teens with the Indianapolis 500 winner to take 11th, passing four cars in the final stint including two Ganassi machines.

Pourchaire didn't drive an IndyCar for the first time until first practice on Friday, but finished as the race's top rookie and having gained the most places from his grid spot of anyone.

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