Sunday was supposed to be a Penske Party in Elkhart Lake. Someone forgot to inform Scott Dixon.
After a recent stretch of tough breaks, Dixon finally broke through for his first win of the 2017 season. The Chip Ganassi driver captured the 41st victory of his career, putting him just one behind Michael Andretti for third on the all-time wins list. It also marks the 13th consecutive season in which Dixon has won at least one race.
Dixon led 24 of the 55 laps on Sunday, beating Josef Newgarden to the finish line by 0.5779 seconds. Helio Castroneves joined them on the podium, after starting from pole position. It is the 13th podium finish for Castroneves since his last win in Detroit. Simon Pagenaud and Will Power rounded out the top five, in what was a bitter sweet day for Roger Penske. All four cars finishing in the top-five is great, but not winning has to be somewhat disappointing.
Kohler Grand Prix Box Score
Ganassi had two more cars finish in the top-ten, as Charlie Kimball was sixth, and Max Chilton finished in ninth position. The fourth driver, Tony Kanaan, didn’t have a good weekend at all. After qualifying in 16th on Saturday, he made contact with Alexander Rossi on Lap 46 and had a hard hit with the outside wall in Turn 11.
Rookie sensation Ed Jones continued his impressive campaign, finishing in seventh for Dale Coyne Racing. Graham Rahal was just behind him in eighth spot, while Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top-ten after returning to the United States about 24 hours earlier. His teammate James Hinchcliffe had contact with Will Power that ended his hopes of winning on the scenic road course, as he finished in 20th position.
It was an awful day all around for Andretti Autosport. None of their cars managed to finish inside the Top 12, as they each had issues during the race. Rossi’s contact with Kanaan eliminated his chances at a good finish, and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished just behind him in 14th after he too had damage to his Honda machine. Marco Andretti qualified eighth, but had throttle and pit road speed limiter issues that ruined his afternoon. Takuma Sato was fighting through a pinched nerve in his neck, and ended up losing control of his car in Turn 11 on Lap 29.
Dixon extended his lead in the championship standings with his win today. He is now 34 points ahead of Pagenaud, the reigning champion. Castroneves is third, Sato fourth, and Josef Newgarden moved into the fifth spot after an impressive drive today, as he chased down Dixon in the final laps of the race.
With 10 of the 17 races now in the books, the Verizon IndyCar Series will rest up over the holiday weekend. The next race on the schedule is the famous little bull ring known as Iowa Speedway on July 9. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the Iowa Corn 300, which begins at 5 PM ET on Saturday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “It’s a little disappointing that a Team Penske car didn’t win today, but no complaints about the No. 1 Menards Chevy. Congratulations to the (Scott) Dixon team. They did a great job. We did all that we could do. There were a lot of different tire strategies in play. We were one of the few teams that started on blacks and it worked for us. We just never had the opportunity to get around some cars and make more noise. In the end, it was a good day for us. It’s an honor to carry the Menards name in the Midwest. The fan support was fantastic again this year.”
Josef Newgarden: “You can’t predict (yellow flags) and I think our strategy was spot on. We were doing what we needed to do to stay out front there all day, but you just can’t predict those yellows, and some days they fall your way and some days they don’t. Today they didn’t fall our way. (Scott) Dixon and the whole Ganassi team did a great job and they deserved to win with the job they did. I felt good about what we had and we had four strong Chevrolets all weekend with Team Penske. It stings a bit that we didn’t get the win because of how good this car was all weekend. We looked good and you couldn’t miss us. We had the fastest lap which was pretty cool and I am just proud of all our guys. Just disappointed we couldn’t get it done.”
Helio Castroneves: “The REV Group Chevy was good, especially in the beginning. I was taking it easy and saving fuel, a lot of fuel actually. When we put the blacks (Firestone primary tires) on, I knew it was going to be rough. At the end of the race Scott (Dixon) did a good job saving fuel and going a lap farther. They were fast, for sure, and it’s a shame because our car was really good without question. But when you battle this close with everyone it’s the difference of one small detail. At the end of the day, it was a good day for the points championship. It’s kind of disappointing that Team Penske didn’t get the win here today considering how strong all of the cars were. That’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ll come back ready to go for Iowa.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Obviously not the day we were hoping for. In the race we settled into a three-stop strategy, like so many others. After our second stop on the restart, Max (Chilton) and I were on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and Will (Power) was on blacks (Firestone primary tires). Max went for a gap into Turn 3 and I went with him and got into the side of Will; it broke the front wing and I honestly thought it broke the front suspension. I crawled my way around into pit lane and we found some bent parts, managed to get going again, but at that point we were already a lap down. On a track like this it’s tough to make that back. We’ve had a couple of bad results the last few races. This is the only one that was on us, other than that it’s really just been bad luck. Hopefully we can get all this behind us and we can have a good result at Iowa in the Arrow car.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “I think the Lucas Oil SPM team did a great job to bring the No. 7 car in the top 10. I had nice pit stops and the car balance was fine. Today’s result is not bad at all considering the problems we dealt with yesterday and with missing practice on Friday. It was a pretty intense race for me.”
Max Chilton: “It’s not how we wanted it, especially after how quick we were this morning. I’ve said it before, sometimes if you’re quick in warmup, you’re nowhere in the race. Something just wasn’t working for us. On a set of reds (Firestone alternate tires), we were struggling massively and then we went to the blacks (Firestone primary tires), which would’ve been alright, but then the safety car came out and everyone else had longer life on the reds and I was struggling again. It was just a frustrating afternoon, because I think we’ve been quick all weekend but nothing seems to go our way.”
Scott Dixon: “The NTT Data car has really had pace all weekend. The Penske cars definitely had something figured out this weekend and we knew we were going to have a battle on our hands. Then we missed the morning warmup today with a fuel pressure issue. The team worked hard to fix the car and it was a bit of an unknown for the race, but it held up. We had great strategy and great pace today and I couldn’t be happier for the team. We had a few races earlier this year that I felt got away, so this feels good and it’s good for us in the points.”
Tony Kanaan: “It hasn’t been our weekend here at Road America for sure. We were working our way back up and we thought we had a good chance at getting a top-10 finish, but then he (Alexander Rossi) blocked me and put me in the wall. I don’t think it was a nice move at all, but I’m not going to waste my time with it. My wrist is a little sore, but I’m OK overall. That was a big hit. Congrats to Scott (Dixon) and the No. 9 car. They were fast all weekend.”
Will Power: “We were just caught up in things all day. The Verizon Chevy was fantastic, just as it had been all weekend. I battled good with (Scott) Dixon on that first stint. Maybe we could have gone one more lap on that first set of tires, but the fuel numbers might not have worked out, so we played it safe. My hat is off to Scott (Dixon). I felt pretty good about a Team Penske victory today, but they did a great job. The guys gave me a great car and we didn’t have any problems in the pits. We gave it all that we could. It was a good day for points and it will be very interesting from here.”
Graham Rahal: “The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy. We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend. We will go test at Iowa now and hope to figure out some stuff there to come back strong at that race.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “It was a crazy race. I had a good start and we tried to go on with the race, trying to find the right balance in the car. Obviously, I was giving my best all the time. Then I started to have a lot of understeer in the car, and I struggled to find the pace and a good balance. I was not feeling comfortable in the car. I had to pit a few times to change the front wing to try and see if there was any damage or anything. It was hard to understand what was going on. It was a very tough race, but I think we have to move forward and use this as an experience and keep working hard. I definitely learned quite a lot out there.”
Ed Jones: “It was a really tough race. We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up. Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”
Spencer Pigot: “There was a lot of hard racing out there today. We had gotten pretty far up into the field before we had some issues with the front suspension that prevented us from continuing our move forward. We had to make a few extra stops that took a long time, but the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys did a really good job at diagnosing the problem and fixing it as quick as they could. Our pace was really good and I’m slightly satisfied to come back to 12th. It was unfortunately another race where we should have finished much higher up.”
JR Hildebrand: “We felt pretty good about how the race was going for a while, we were running with some normally racy guys. Then that last yellow came out and we were stuck on blacks without much overtake left. I’d burned up a lot of overtake just trying to get up to where we were at. We may have ended up 12th or 13th, something like that. It wasn’t going to be anything to write home about, but at least we had worked our way up through the field a little bit. When it went back to green, we just got eaten up by those guys that were on red and still had a bit of overtake left. Then we had a mechanical issue within the last three laps of the race that really took us out of the running altogether. We just kind of have to take this result on the chin and move on to Iowa.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a tough weekend and tough race. I injured my neck during practice Saturday morning. We started in the back row, tried to make a push up, but I caught an accident. The engine was stalled and I wasn’t sure if we could continue, but the safety crew came and fired up the engine, so I came back to the pit, buckled again and I was able to keep going. In the end we made the finish, but we need a better weekend. Iowa is next and we will be ready.”
Marco Andretti: “It was a rough day for us. We started eighth, but ran into throttle problems. We went off track on the first stint because the throttle stuck wide open. We came into the pits to try to fix it and got hit with a pit lane speed violation because my pit lane limiter wasn’t working. We still weren’t getting full throttle – I was barely hitting sixth gear. It’s hard to race that way, especially at a track like this.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had a tough day. In the end we had a good car, we were moving forward, passing for sixth with three laps to go. Charlie (Kimball) made a late block and took off my front wing. I had a good race going until Charlie moved out late like that, it’s just really unfortunate. I’m happy to switch gears to Iowa where we’ve put our DHL machine on the top step three times. I’m ready for a fourth win.”
Charlie Kimball: “Overall a really solid day for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. We had really good pace and really good fuel mileage on the first two stints. That third stint, I don’t think I managed the Firestone alternates as well as some of the guys around me. You saw that with the No. 12 car with a better in and out lap. That was disappointing, because I think we could have maybe had a shot at a top five. Overall though, to fight off some competitors for that last stint after the final yellow felt good and it felt good to bring it home in sixth for the guys. Kind of a semi-trouble free weekend and pretty happy with it. Big congrats to the NTT Data team and the No. 9 car. What a way to celebrate Mike Hull’s 25th anniversary with the team and get Honda and Chip Ganassi Racing their first win after coming back together this season.”
Alexander Rossi: “We had a really strong race car. We could’ve been fighting for a top-five finish this afternoon. I think we started with a good strategy, going for a four-stop race after starting 15th, but it all caught up to us on that first yellow. Luckily, we had already gained track position and speed running on open track. We had an issue with our front wing, which ironically or not, is the same issue we finished the race with here last year, so we definitely need to figure out exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”