Alex Palou wasn’t the only NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver to secure his position in the final standings in Sunday’s BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland. Scott Dixon did, too, assuring Chip Ganassi Racing of its first 1-2 finish in the championship since 2009 when Dario Franchitti edged Dixon by 11 points.
This year’s final margin will be considerably higher than in 2009 as Palou will take a 91-point lead into next weekend’s season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). But Dixon’s accomplishment is worth celebrating even if he surely wasn’t in his most festive mood following the race at Portland International Raceway.
In a season in which Dixon won a race for the record-extending 19th season, he will finish in the top four of the standings for the 18th time. And, he has done so in 18 of the past 19 years, with a sixth-place finish in 2016 the outlier. This will be the ninth time he has finished first or second.
“To already secure 1-2 going into the last race is pretty special,” Dixon said after first praising Palou, team owner Chip Ganassi and Palou’s entire No. 10 crew.
Dixon described his season to date as “pretty blah,” but he has two or more wins for the 17th year, and Sunday’s third-place finish put him on the podium for the fifth time this season.
Dixon’s performances this season have pushed his career race win total to 55, and he has broken Tony Kanaan’s record for consecutive starts – his mark stands at 321. Overall, Dixon has moved to third in career starts, with 385, and he continues to gain on Mario Andretti’s records for top-two and top-three finishes.
Dixon felt he should have finished second Sunday, but the timing of the late caution left him behind Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist. However, Dixon said it didn’t impact Palou winning the race or the championship.
“I don’t know if we had enough speed for Alex – he was definitely fast,” Dixon said. “We were definitely off sequence to him – he was on red (alternate tires) when we were on black (primaries), and he had a pretty smooth run through that sequence with traffic. That short segment definitely helped him.”
As for the season, Dixon’s only bad result came as a result of contact with Pato O’Ward in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Dixon’s car ended up in the tire barrier, causing him to finish last among 27 drivers.
Dixon said there were other moments in the season he’d like to have back, including races where the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing crew picked the wrong strategy, but he said every competitor in the paddock can “pick a season to pieces,” so he won’t.
“All in all, you have to look at the big picture,” he said. “To secure 1-2 in the championship; that’s tough to do. In this competition, that’s really tough to do.”
Rosenqvist Finally Gets Strong Result
If this was one of Rosenqvist’s last races in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, it was a good one despite starting 11th due to a mechanical failure in qualifying.
The runner-up finish was the third time he has stood on the podium as an Arrow McLaren driver. He finished third in the Honda Indy Toronto in 2022, the same position he occupied earlier this year in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
“I was really bummed yesterday after qualifying,” Rosenqvist said. “We had something break in the steering rack, and we had to pit before we could do our lap in (the second round). So, there was definitely more (speed) than our starting position showed.
“Yeah, what a race. That was really good fun. It kind of went our way, as well. We kind of gambled on staying out on reds, but it worked out with the yellow in the end.
“We had to obviously save the tires a bit, so I think it wasn’t the winning strategy, but it was for sure enough for a podium (finish). I’m really happy with the comeback we did.”
Considerable speculation centers on Rosenqvist joining Meyer Shank Racing for the 2024 season.
Odds and Ends
- After winning his season’s second NTT P1 Award as the fastest qualifier, Graham Rahal (No. 15 PeopleReady Honda) got jumped by Palou, Dixon and others using sticker primary tires on the first sequence. He finished 12th, one position behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Christian Lundgaard (No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda).
- Juri Vips (No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda) had a strong performance in his first series race. He finished 18th, the first car a lap behind the winner’s pace.
- Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) went through the Turn 1 run-off on the opening lap to avoid trouble, which caused him to fall from 12th to 18th. From there he showed he had a fast car, and he finished fifth.
- Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood (No. 27 AutoNation Honda) joined Newgarden in the first-lap run-off area, and he used smart fuel strategy to battle back to finish 10th.
- Rinus VeeKay had his best race of the season, finishing sixth in the No. 21 BITNILE.COM Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing. His only other top-10 finish was a 10th in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
- Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda) continued after high-speed contact with Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) to finish seventh. Rossi’s car bounced off track with a cut tire and finished 20th.
- Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian) rebounded from an early pit road speeding penalty to be in position to finish eighth, but a late spin after going off track dropped him to 14th. He will seek his first win of the season next week as a two-time champion of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
- Andretti Autosport’s Louis Foster won his second INDY NXT by Firestone race of the season Sunday, pulling off a clean race as so many drivers were engulfed in a first-lap accident. Christian Rasmussen of HMD Motorsports with DCR was one of those drivers who took contact, although after spinning he rejoined the fight and finished fifth to stretch his points lead to 65 heading to the year’s final two races next weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.