Dixon’s Path To 5th Championship Becomes Clear With Toronto Win And Main Challengers Struggles

Five Laps. That’s all it took on Sunday for Scott Dixon’s path towards a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship to become much clearer. Dixon, would take his No. 9 Honda to victory lane for the third time of his career in the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday and 44th overall win of his storied career while his main challengers to win this year’s championship all had their hopes dashed in a span of five laps.

It all started on Lap 28 when teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made contact on the track and forced both to pit for damage. The first caution flag would fly because of that. Then, on the ensuing restart, Josef Newgarden, the current leader of the race, brushed the wall on the exit of the final corner which allowed Dixon to overtake him coming to the green. Newgarden, would lose a ton of spots because of the damage suffered to his No. 1 Chevrolet. Heading into this weekend, Newgarden, Rossi and Hunter-Reay were 2-3-4 in the points standings and in five laps, all three were taken out of contention for the win. Rossi would finish eighth, Newgarden ninth and Hunter-Reay 16th as a result. 

If that wasn’t good enough for Dixon, try this on for size. Fifth place in the standings Will Power was collected in a crash that took out seventh place at the time in the standings Graham Rahal when he got into Turn 1 too hot and sparked a chain reaction crash collecting Power, Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais and Max Chilton in Turn 1 on that same Lap 34 restart.

In a span of five laps, all of Dixon’s main contenders for this year’s championship had problems while Dixon took over the lead as well.

Game. Set. Match.

 “I’m worn out, man, that was a physical race,” said Dixon after his third trip to victory lane of the season. “It was definitely easy to pick up lots of debris on the tires out there, and I think that’s what happened to Josef (Newgarden) on that restart where we took the lead. He tried to go a little bit fast into the last corner there in Turn 11, got into the gray and that was pretty much it. I can’t thank PNC Bank and the crew enough, we just needed some clear air and we were able to check out. What a great win for the team and everyone associated with this No. 9 car program.”

Dixon, leaves Toronto with a 62 point lead over Newgarden heading into the next race at Mid-Ohio in two weeks. Rossi (-70), Hunter-Reay (-91) and Power (-93) are the only other drivers that are within 100 points of Dixon with just five races to go in the season.

“It was a tough race,” said a disappointed Newgarden who led 25 laps in total on Sunday. “Making contact with the wall didn’t help. I don’t know what it was to be honest with you, it was either marbles or dust from the sweepers; they’re trying to clean off the track and that yellow, when we already had tons of marbles 27 laps in. I don’t know what to tell you, I went straight into the wall. And part of that is my fault, just making a mistake, but I didn’t expect it; I’ll tell you that. I just had no idea the car was going to do that. I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely. I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake. This No. 1 Hitachi Chevy was quick today, I think it was capable of being in the top three or potentially winning the race if I didn’t make the mistake, but you have days like this in racing. We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing. We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver now has the third most win in series history (44), third most second place finishes (39), third most podiums (102) and tied for second in career top fives (149) as he approaches his 300th career start in two weeks.

Think you can make up at least 62 points in five races on a driver of that caliber? Good luck. Dixon, has seven top four finishes over his last eight starts on the year and has seen 10 of his 12 starts in 2018 wind up with a top six result.

Simon Pagenaud would trail Dixon across the finish line in his No. 22 Chevrolet earning his fifth straight top five finish and eighth over the last nine races. Fellow Canadian Robert Wickens brought his No. 6 Honda home third while his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate of James Hinchcliffe came home fourth in his No. 5 Honda.

Charlie Kimball earned a season best fifth place finish in his No. 23 Chevrolet.

Honda Indy Toronto Results

  1. 9 Dixon
  2. 22 Pagenaud
  3.  6 Wickens R
  4.  5 Hinchcliffe
  5. 23 Kimball
  6. 14 Kanaan
  7. 26 Veach R
  8. 27 Rossi
  9.  1 Newgarden
  10. 98 Andretti
  11. 20 King R
  12. 10 Jones
  13. 88 Daly
  14. 19 Claman DeMelo R
  15.  4 Leist R
  16. 28 Hunter-Reay -1
  17. 32 Binder R -2
  18. 12 Power -2
  19. 18 Bourdais -2
  20. 21 Pigot OUT
  21. 15 Rahal -17
  22. 30 Sato OUT
  23. 59 Chilton OUT

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