After failing to finish in the top 10 in the opening two races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar schedule, New Zealand’s Scott Dixon reversed his early season woes by capturing Sunday’s 41st running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Dixon (Target Ganassi Racing #9) started the 80-lap main event from the third position following Saturday’s qualifying session that saw Penske Racing teammates Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya capture the front row of the starting grid.
Dixon was quickly able to squeeze by Montoya on the opening lap and settled in behind CastroNeves over the next 33 laps. Unable to make a pass for the lead on the track, Dixon was able take over the race lead when Castroneves nearly collided with another car during a routine pit stop on Lap 33.
Castroneves made a quick stop which looked to be enough to hold his position by beating Dixon out of the pits, but he had to brake to avoid hitting Tony Kanaan’s car that was exiting out of his stall. The loss of momentum was just enough to allow Dixon to grab the lead.
“We had a good start and Montoya crowded me a bit, but that allowed me a chance to get by him on the outside,” explained Dixon. “The pit stop exchange between Helio and Tony gave me the opportunity to take the lead. I definitely need to by Tony a beer though.”
Dixon dominated the race for the rest of the distance to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach by a comfortable 2.2221 second margin over Castroneves. Montoya held off another Penske teammate, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for third and Dixon’s teammate Tony Kanaan, of Brazil, rounded out the top five.
“I was pushing really hard to try and catch Dixon, but the tires just went off,” said Montoya. “At the end I was just trying to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.”
Castroneves thought the mishap cost him the win, but was not disappointed with a runner up finish.
“If I had come out of the pits first I think I could have held him off, but we will never know,” said Castroneves. “The guys did a great job and everything was just about perfect except for the incident between me and Tony. At the end of the day, second place is not too bad.”
The race was completed in a tidy one hour, thirty seven minutes and was slowed by only one yellow caution, which occurred following the opening lap for some debris in Turn 9.
It was a very pleasing victory for the three-time IndyCar Series champion who has not had much luck previously in Long Beach. A fourth place finish in 2010 was Dixon’s only previous top 10 finish on the on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit.
“It has been a tough track for me and I have had some bad luck here so this was very satisfying to finally get the job done properly,” said Dixon. “I love coming to Long Beach. It feels spectacular to finally conquer it and win here.”
The win was Dixon’s 36th in IndyCar which moved him past Bobby Unser into fifth in career wins. It was also Chip Ganassi Racing’s first victory this season following wins by Montoya at St Pete opener and James Hinchcliffe in last Sunday’s inaugural GP of Louisiana.
The IndyCar season will be back in action next Sunday, April 26, as the series heads to Barber Motor Sports Park for the Honda GP of Alabama. Then it is on to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Angie’s List Road Course Race on May 9 and the 98th running of the Indy 500 on May 24.