AVONDALE, Ariz. -- In the heat of the desert, the "Ice Man" lived up to his nickname by remaining cool all the way to Victory Lane.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon won the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway under caution after rookie Alexander Rossi made contact with the wall two laps from the finish of the 250-lap event. It was the first career win at PIR for both Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (in any race series).
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Dixon started sixth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and went on to earn the 39th win of his Indy car career, tying him with Al Unser for fourth in all-time victories. The race marked the return of the series to Phoenix International Raceway's historic 1.022-mile oval for the first time since Sam Hornish Jr. won in 2005.
Dixon also set an Indy car record by winning a race for the 12 consecutive season. He was previously deadlocked at 11 with Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Helio Castroneves. It was also the 101st Indy car win for the Ganassi team.
“It was tough, definitely one of the toughest races on these short ovals,” said Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series titlist. “The car was super-fast. I think we had the best car out there on strategies and pit stops.”
Dixon now has 20 wins on oval tracks and 19 on road/street courses. He will attempt to even that number up in the next race on April 17, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), where Dixon is the defending race winner.
“We definitely had bad luck at St. Pete (finishing seventh), but we’re a strong team,” Dixon said. “If we can figure it out at the start of the season, it’ll make it a little easier for us.”
Simon Pagenaud, in the No, 22 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet, finished second for the second consecutive race and took over the lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings for the first time in his career. Unofficially, Pagenaud has 83 points and leads Dixon by four.
“That’s good news,” Pagenaud said. “That’s exactly what we want to do. This is not our strong suit, short ovals, but if we can be strong, that’s a good sign.”
Pagenaud gave credit where it was due. “I was loose, loose, loose at the beginning of the race,” he said. “But my engineer (Ben Bretzman) made an adjustment and my car woke up.”
Will Power, who missed the season opener two weeks ago at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg due to an inner ear infection, finished a strong third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“I’m really happy to finish third. Missing the first race and dealing with a few health issues, I was just happy to complete the race in a great position,” Power said. “I got more energy as I went along. I was worried about this being my first race and how physical it was, but have to give it to the Verizon guys and pit crew tonight. They were awesome and I had a lot of fun tonight. Congrats to Dixon.”
Tony Kanaan finished fourth in the No. 10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Graham Rahal was the top-finishing Honda driver, placing fifth in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“We charged at the end and at the end it was fun,” Kanaan said. “We missed an opportunity to be on the podium. We have to improve a couple of things. … It was tough racing.”
Added Rahal, “It was tough to pass. I felt like I had a really good race car. Unfortunately, our competition had about a 5 mph advantage on us, I feel like. I was just doing everything I could to get it.”
The highest-finishing rookie was Max Chilton, who placed seventh in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race on an oval in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.
“Chip Ganassi gave me a fantastic car,” Chilton said. “Obviously, Scott won this event, TK (Kanaan) flew past me with about 10-15 to go, so maybe I didn’t have necessarily the fastest car, but I think as a team we had a very, very strong car.
“I think there was a few mistakes I made as a rookie, just because I hadn’t experienced it before, where we could have been top two or three. I’m really happy with what we came away with this evening.”
A couple early front-runners had issues in the first half of the race. Team Penske pilots Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya both cut right-front tires that forced them to pit from the lead. Castroneves led the first 39 laps from the pole in the No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet and Montoya, who won the St. Pete season opener, led the next 56 laps in the No. 2 Verizon Chevy. Dixon was the third and last race leader, pacing the field the final 155 laps.
The race saw five caution periods for a total of 56 laps.