Scott Dixon is simply on a different planet right now. The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion has kicked off the abbreviated 2020 season in style. After dominating the first two races at Texas and the Grand Prix in Indianapolis, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver took the checkered flag for Race 1 at Road America on Saturday. This marks the first time a driver has won three races in a row since 2016 when Simon Pagenaud completed the feat. This is the third time in his career that Dixon has won three consecutive races.
When I arrived in Elkhart Lake early Saturday morning, I immediately took a tour around the facility. After hearing such great things about the venue, I finally made the trip up north and enjoyed every minute. There were so many places to go and view the action, plenty of spots for taking photos, and more than enough space for everyone to spread out. In the opening practice session later that morning, Dixon didn’t seem to have the same pace as the front runners, but it didn’t take the No. 9 team long to figure it out.
REV Group Grand Prix at Road America Race 1 Box Score
Josef Newgarden appeared to have the car to beat once qualifying was complete. The Team Penske driver was on the pole, with Jack Harvey starting on the front row for the second straight race. Newgarden led the most (25) laps on Saturday, but his pit stop on Lap 28 ultimately ended his shot at the win. After stalling the engine and struggling to get it restarted, the two-time series champion fell towards the back and finished in 14th position. Simon Pagenaud struggled in qualifying and only advanced five positions to finish 12th on Saturday.
Will Power took advantage of his teammate’s misfortune on pit road and propelled his No. 12 Chevrolet towards the front of the pack. Power led 10 laps on Saturday and scored a runner-up finish on the famous road course. The biggest surprise to the Dixon and Power podium was third-place finisher Alex Palou. The rookie had a stellar race after starting back in 14th position. It was a very special moment for the entire Dale Coyne Racing team.
A pair of Andretti Autosport drivers completed the top five, as Ryan Hunter-Reay got a much-needed result. Colton Herta didn’t mix it up with the leaders, but he drove a steady and consistent race. Another young gun finished just behind him, as Santino Ferrucci put a bow on an outstanding day for Coyne. Graham Rahal had a different look on his No. 15 Honda today. He finished 7th after his runner-up performance at Indianapolis last weekend. Pato O’Ward, Takuma Sato, and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten.
One of the biggest moments in the race came on Lap 42 when O’Ward and Conor Daly got together, sending Conor’s car spinning violently into the tire barriers. Conor was slightly shaken up after getting out of the car, and was later diagnosed with a separated shoulder. He is expected to be cleared to drive in tomorrow’s race.
As hot as Dixon has been to open the season, Alexander Rossi has been equally as bad. The first race at Texas could be blamed on the Honda ECU issue. The No. 27 pit crew had issues in the GMR Grand Prix that resulted in a terrible result. Today, it was the driver that had issues. At the start of the race he went off course and hit one of the signs placed in the grass. He had to pit to remove the sign, then had contact with Max Chilton on Lap 51 that sent him off course again. He finished 19th today but will have another opportunity to turn his luck around tomorrow.
This was the 49th career win for Dixon, who is now just three wins away from tying Mario Andretti for 2nd on the all-time wins list. The win also broke the streak of nine different winners in the last nine races at the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course. Dixon won this race in 2017. “The car is difficult to drive,” Dixon said. “Huge thanks to everyone on the PNC crew. We dialed it in a bit during the race but still really tricky on the rears. Hard to keep them under you. But it looked like a lot of other people were struggling, as well. That was awesome, man.”
The second race of this double-header event will take place tomorrow, but television coverage will be different. Sunday’s race will air at 12:30 PM ET on NBC.
SCOTT DIXON: “Wow, what a race and what a team effort by the PNC Bank No. 9 team. Honda, I can’t thank them enough. I’m so proud to be powered by Honda and HPD, and they do an amazing job on this program. And the fans … man, it was great to see you all out there. I can’t say thank you enough. Winning the first three races is the best start you could hope for, and obviously we want to do everything we can to keep that momentum rolling into Race 2 tomorrow.”
WILL POWER: “Unfortunately we had to pit under yellow, and that lost us the lead in the pits. We just had a slow pit stop. And then we had the wrong gears in the car, so it kind of hurt those restarts. Other than that, it was a good day. We moved up and got up to second. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ll sit there as a team and will figure out how to execute a bit better. Especially frustrating when we just let wins like that go. I think we had a good Verizon Chevrolet, and I don’t think Dixon would have gotten by us if we came out of the pit ahead of him. It wasn’t the end of the day, but we still could have won. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
ALEX PALOU: “It’s amazing. It feels so good! That was an awesome race for us. It was my first time here at Road America and having practice, qualifying and the race all in the same day isn’t easy. It was tough starting 14th , but we were lucky today because we had a really strong car. I could overtake some of the guys at the start and then we just had a really good pace, good enough to be overtaking when we had clean air. The crew did well on the pit stops, and the last one was amazing, as we got ahead of quite a few guys and we were P4 after that last stop. After the restart, I could easily follow Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Will (Power), and I was able to overtake Ryan twice to get into third. It was a really nice race for us. I hope we can repeat our performance tomorrow and hopefully do even better.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “We’ll have to figure out something for tomorrow. Unfortunately, there is no time for it without practice and going right in to qualifying. We’ll have to try and guess on something for the race. We’ve got good pace on new tires. We just did not have the pace to keep up consistently. I think fourth is all the 28 car had in it today. Good job to the guys up front, and congrats to Scott Dixon and Team Honda.”
COLTON HERTA: “It was a pretty solid result. We didn’t have the car to win. We did have the car for a top five. We got a little lucky with some people’s misfortunes, but it was a good race. The car was very decent at the end of the stints, and we were able to close up the gaps and have good pit stops. That’s how we made most of our passes.” (On feeling post-race, outside the car): “Definitely the best I’ve felt since they’ve put the windscreen on. We had some really good updates and felt a lot cooler. I don’t think it’ll be a problem for tomorrow. The biggest thing is here is my hands gets super sore from the curbs; they are super rough. I’ll ice my hands tonight, and I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “We had a fantastic opening lap, moving up from sixth to fourth. I then made a really tough pass on Ryan Hunter-Reay and got around him for third. From there, we moved into second and held our own, didn’t make any mistakes. Coming out of the pits after the last stop, we lost a lot of track position when another car turned straight from the fast lane across to his pit box, and I was forced to check up. We fought back from there to finish sixth. It was a blast to drive the SealMaster-Coyne Vasser-Sullivan car today, and I’m ready to take on tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “With the TOTAL QUARTZ machine, we probably had a car that could win, but there was a problem on the first stop that wasn’t ideal that took us from running second to 11th , and we ultimately recovered to seventh. It was a frustrating day. The mistake hurt us. When I was in second place, we were definitely on a mission, and things were looking great. Having said that, we did finish every lap, so we did raise a lot of money for Turns for Troops with United Rentals. And we had a good points day. In general, we caught (Simon) Pagenaud and a couple of the other guys. Dixie (Scott Dixon) is in a world of his own right now, and all of the bounces are certainly going his way, too. And that happens in racing. It happened for us in 2015, and we’re working on getting back in that position. We’ll swap the AERO vinyl to Fifth Third Bank overnight and try to capitalize on a good setup to get this car to the front. We need to get the car a little better, find a little rear grip overnight. Overall, I thought the engineers and mechanics have done a great job. The car has been super-reliable. Brian, my Honda engineer, has done an amazing job this year. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep going.”
PATO O’WARD: “I truly feel like I gave it my all out there today. We need to work on our black-tire pace, but our red-tire pace is strong. Locking up in the last stint really put us back into the guys behind, but we had the pace to catch the guys in front and try to challenge. I had to make some really late braking moves to get by some people. I think it’s something good that we can work on tomorrow, just seeing what the tires did over the course of a stint. I want to qualify up front tomorrow. We have the car, and I know the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolets can run up front.”
TAKUMA SATO: “It’s good to be back at Road America, everybody’s favorite. It was a tough qualifying for me. We didn’t get the balance we wanted, unfortunately, and I started from 15th . Lap 1 was terrible. I was side-by-side and was kind of pushed out and went all the way back, which was a bit like last week. But then we gradually came back, and I think the team gave me a great strategy for that. One time the air duct on the helmet fell out, and it was really, really hot. Overall, I think we got some very good data to come back and use tomorrow. I look forward to qualifying again. I think we will have a chance to start in front.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “I think we had a good race by making a good start and taking the right strategy. The car was really good, and we were making positions into the top 10. We had a good pass for P7, but I was really frustrated that I sort of threw it away on the last lap with a half-spin and dropped to P10. Once again we had great cars, as evidenced by Dixon winning again, so we’ll keep pushing hard to get to the front.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “It was incredibly frustrating today to have another great race car go to waste – nothing seems to be going right right now. But thankfully we have another shot tomorrow and a fast race car. I’m looking forward to putting a full race together and getting a good result for the U.S. Concrete Honda team.”
OLIVER ASKEW: “It was good to gain six positions today in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and put what happened last weekend at IMS behind us. We obviously have a lot to work on for tomorrow, but luckily it will be a fresh start. The whole team is going to learn as much as we can from today and have a better race tomorrow. It was awesome to see fans back at the racetrack today and look forward to putting on a show for them tomorrow.”
MAX CHILTON: “It was a long day at the office today with practice, qualifying and a race, but I love Road America. We were competitive this morning, but I felt like it was a bit like the Indy Grand Prix last weekend where we didn’t show our true speed in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet during practice. I was confident going into qualifying and I felt like I drove the best lap I’ve ever driven here, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough today. We started toward the back of the field on a track which is very hard with strategy, and the only way to get around strategy here is if you’re quick, and actually we started the first half of the race fairly quick. We were top-five pace and we were doing fuel-saving well, but it all got messy when we kept getting all of these yellows because our car was really struggling with straight-line speed on the restarts. So, I was having to defend very hard, and it was getting pretty scrappy out there. Then I went for a move down the inside of (Alexander) Rossi when he made a mistake, and we clashed wheels. I don’t know if I was ahead or if he was ahead, but it was a big hit with our wheels ripping the wheel out of my hand. He got suspension damage and I got suspension damage and that was pretty much the end of the race. Obviously it was a tough day for the team that was even more frustrating knowing how quick we can be, but it does make it easier to be optimistic about another chance tomorrow to qualify and race well.”
CONOR DALY: (About accident): “I honestly don’t really know. Pato (O’Ward) got out onto the curb, and he was really slow exiting. So, I had enough of a run to where honestly, I thought it was going to be OK. But I don’t really race with him that much. It was tough there. That’s hard to go two-wide. That’s probably on both of us a little bit. It’s really hard to go two-wide there. But I had enough of a run to where you’ve got to take a chance. So, I can’t throw the blame on him. But it’s a little bit of a shame because he was on red tires, so I think he could have lasted a little longer, and it sucks for us. That was really painful. But the U.S. Air Force, these guys will fix it up, hopefully and hopefully we can have a better day tomorrow.” (How is shoulder, and how do you recover for tomorrow?): “It just popped out when I went around, so it was really, really painful for a little bit. So, we’ll just ice it down and see what happens.”
JACK HARVEY: “It’s such a shame that our race had to end early, especially after such a strong day for Meyer Shank Racing. I went into the corner at Turn 3, and my brakes locked up and the wheels spun. There wasn’t much I could do when the brakes failed in that way. All year we’ve had a fast car, and that is what is frustrating because this was a weekend that we could have had a top five. Something randomly happened that took us out of contention, which is greatly disappointing for myself and the whole Meyer Shank Racing team. I know that we have the speed, and these guys will work hard to figure out exactly what went wrong so that we can come back equally as strong tomorrow.”
DALTON KELLETT: “It was an interesting day at Road America. Definitely taking some time to get used to the track. This place has a lot more high-speed corners than Indy GP, so there’s a bit of familiarization with that. In the race today, once we got some pace, we weren’t half-bad on lap times. Had a couple rookie mistakes. Made a mistake on pit lane that cost us a bunch of time. Went long on my marks and guys had to reshuffle to get the stop done. On the restart, I was trying to miss a couple of guys that were checking up, and I dropped a wheel in the grass and I ended up stuck in the gravel trap at the exit of Turn 14 so went a lap down there, so that ended our chances to move up in the race. Feel bad for the guys. They were working great in pit lane all day, but we’re going to have a look at everything tonight and come back stronger tomorrow.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL: “Great day for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet here in Race 1 at Road America. The guys did an awesome job in pit lane. All three stops were really quick, on the money all day long. The car got better and better as the race developed and we got close to that top 10 but didn’t quite get there. But learned a lot about the car, learned a lot about what we need to do for tomorrow for Race No. 2.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “That was a tough one. We had such a strong PPG Chevy, and the guys did such a great job putting together such a fast car. We started on the pole, and at the beginning of the race, we were just trying to hold track position. I think at one point, we had about an eight-second lead. Unfortunately, we had a problem in the pits and stalled the car. It took us awhile to get it restarted, and that lost all the gap we had built, and from there and we were fighting from behind. We had gotten back into the top 10, and I just locked up the tires going into Turn 1 on one of those late restarts. So, our day went from a great to pretty bad pretty quickly. But hey, that’s racing – we just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities today. I’m thankful we have another shot tomorrow since I really love racing at this place. We’re going to take a look at a few things tonight to make sure we have a solid plan going into tomorrow’s qualifying session with the PPG Chevrolet. I’m confident our guys will put together another fast car tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “It was a really disappointing day. The Menards Chevy had a few struggles in qualifying, but we were able to get ourselves in a decent spot a few times during the race with some speed on the track and taking advantage of some of the other drivers’ problems. I think we were going to have a top-10 finish and limit the points we might have lost, then we got pushed off the track late in the race. That costs us some spots and points, which is frustrating with (Scott) Dixon winning again. But it’s all right; we learned a lot today, and we’re still second in points, so that’s great. There is still a lot of season left to go, and we’ve got another shot at this tomorrow. I have full confidence we will have the Menards Chevrolet ready to go tomorrow.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “It was a bit up and down for us in the beginning, but the NTT DATA car was really strong. We kind of ran around the place where we started and then found the car was really good on the red Firestone tires. I think we were one of the quickest cars in the first stint and then had some problems. We weren’t that far behind (Scott) Dixon, but then we had a gradual mechanical issue that came in and pit and lost a lap and never recovered. But we have another chance to get right back and win tomorrow, so that’s the goal.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “We got a good start but got caught out in Turn 13 with cold tires – went off track and caught a bit of sign board under our front wing. So, we had to come in (to the pits), and that pretty much set our day. I think our pace was OK. Those last restarts, I felt like we were middle of the road in terms of stronger than a couple cars and weaker than a few cars behind us. We had some contact with (Max) Chilton in Turn 6, which gave us a flat tire and ultimately ended our day. I think we could’ve finished 14th, but instead we finished 19th . Nothing was really going to go well after Lap 1, so we will have to figure it out for tomorrow. We need to understand a couple question marks that we have. I guess that is the good thing about having two qualifying sessions and two races is we get to look at it overnight and have a blank slate tomorrow. In the past, you’d have to wait a year to come back, so we’ll take that as a small silver lining. I think if we can answer some questions, I think we have the opportunity to be a top-five car for the AutoNation / NAPA team tomorrow. But, congrats to our Honda family on solid results today. Eight of the top 10 today were powered by Honda, so really proud of that.”
ZACH VEACH: “Today was a byproduct of a mistake in qualifying. We had a bit too aggressive tire pressures for our (Firestone alternate) red tires, so we didn’t get that second lap faster that everyone else did. Starting P20 sets your fate at a place like this because it was a follow-the-leader kind of race. We got lucky at the end to go forward to P16, but that’s nothing to be proud of. We’ve got a lot more work to do tomorrow. I know we’ll be insanely quick at Iowa, that’s not a worry, but I want to get out this weekend with a good amount of points. We can still turn it around tomorrow, and that starts with qualifying.”
RINUS VEEKAY: “This was a very hectic race! I had a good start and passed some guys. In Turn 13, many guys went off, and I also tried to see how the grip in the grass was. I picked up a plastic bag on my left wishbone, which really slowed me down on the straights. I got it off after a few laps and then started to push the car. We went for a long run on reds, and I struggled a lot with understeer. Once we got sticker blacks on, it got better. I was happy with that first yellow that really packed up the field. I could just take positions restart by restart. That went pretty well, I had some cool passes and a nice fight with Simon (Pagenaud). In those last laps, I had to drive my butt off to keep Josef (Newgarden) behind me, but I did it! I think P13 is a good ‘bad’ result.”