Scott Dixon is just not going to indulge. He’s just going to keep winning. At age 37, 18 years into a Verizon IndyCar Series career that shifts chapters but not expectations, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver used a victory at the DXC Technology 600 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – his 43rd all time in Indy cars – to move up the career wins list alone behind only A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.
After winning one of two races last week at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, having won a championship as recently as 2015 and now leading the Verizon IndyCar Series standings after nine rounds of 17, Dixon remains – understandably, given his self-effacing nature and team perspective – focused on right now.
DXC TECHNOLOGY 600: Official results
And the now is as promising as much of the career in which he has won four championships (tied for second all-time) and an Indianapolis 500 as the renowned late-season closer. Appropriately on Saturday night, Dixon led the last 119 of 248 laps at Texas to jump from third place in the standings and grasp the lead by 23 points. As hopefuls like rookie Robert Wickens and Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power waxed, waned and eventually wrecked out behind him, Dixon was the constant, leading from Lap 130 until the checkers on the 1.44-mile oval.
It continued a marked statistical turnabout for a driver who had not won this season before Detroit, but had showed promise all along.
“We won two races and led a bunch of laps (in the past week). That's a positive,” Dixon said. “I think we had great speed at the start of the year. I was disappointed with how it went down at St. Pete, how it went down at Long Beach.
“The speed has been there. Unfortunately, we've either made mistakes as a team, I made a mistake, we just didn't really hit our stride. It's nice to finally show the speed the car has, the performance that the team has.”
Dixon, who beat second-place Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud by 4.2943 seconds on Saturday, had moved into a tie for third place with Michael Andretti on the all-time wins list by winning at Detroit on June 2. He won for the third time at Texas on Saturday, also moving into a tie with Michael Andretti for third-most all-time podium finishes with 100.
Alexander Rossi, one of Michael Andretti’s drivers now, finished third.
“Rossi seemed to go pretty hard at the start of the race, which we really didn't have much interest in doing,” Dixon said. “We kind of wanted to see how the tire situation was going to be. We wanted to see how bad other cars were going to go off, get to the end of the pit window.
“That was the last time I saw him. I knew he was hovering around second and third. After the second (pit) stop, we jumped him and Wickens. Wickens was pretty strong at the start, too.”
Defending series champion and pole sitter Josef Newgarden led the first 59 laps before making his first pit stop. Wickens, a newcomer for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, emerged as a threat for a first Indy car win thereafter. Wickens led 31 laps before surrendering the front on a pit cycle and his bid came undone on Lap 173.
Wickens, racing with the confidence of a veteran and the abandon of a driver who had never suffered the consequences of a mistake on a high-speed oval like Texas Motor Speedway, was involved in a crash with oval specialist Ed Carpenter. Attempting to tuck inside Carpenter heading into Turn 3, the two touched and were sent spinning into the SAFER Barrier. Wickens, a DTM touring car veteran who has raced beyond his rookie label and vied for a win before a late collision with Alexander Rossi in the season opener at St. Petersburg, finished 19th.
For his part, Carpenter shouldered the blame.
“I knew Robbie was coming,” the team owner/driver said. “I thought I could close the door, but it was a big mistake on my part. He was a lead-lap car.
“My apologies to him. I know it doesn't mean much now. I feel bad for those guys. I feel bad for my guys. The night certainly didn't need to end like this.”
Two-time and defending Texas winner Will Power never led, but stalked inside the top five for much of the race until colliding with rookie Zachary Claman De Melo as he tried to ply a narrow gap near the wall on Lap 205. The rookie, making what he called an “amazing run” run in the high line, was pinched high by Power, who said he never heard a warning from his spotter while speaking with his race strategist.
“I got a great run on the outside in clean air,” Claman De Melo said. “I probably would have passed Power as well.
“Watching the replay, I was clearly there. It’s just one of those moments. I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose.”
Power, winner of the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, finished 18th in the race and fell from first to third in the championship, 36 points behind Dixon.
Pagenaud, in the aptly named No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet for the race, earned his first podium of the season in holding off Rossi in a frenetic battle for second place over the final 30 laps.
“A much better finish here than Detroit, that's for sure,” said Pagenaud, who climbed to eighth in the standings. “It's never over anyways. We saw that last year. Newgarden really started his momentum mid-season, went on and won the championship. I did the same (in 2016), really. I started really doing a good job in Toronto.
“It's racing. We’ll all go through ups and downs. It doesn't mean you're losing talent. Momentum is what keeps you going.”
In Dixon’s case, absolutely.
The Verizon IndyCar Series takes a much-deserved weekend off before returning to action with the KOHLER Grand Prix from June 22-24 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The race airs live at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, June 24 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.