PORTLAND, Oregon – Takuma Sato went to victory lane in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland, but Scott Dixon had to feel like a winner. Maybe Alexander Rossi, too.
Dixon salvaged what could have been a disastrous points day relative to the Verizon IndyCar Series championship to finish fifth. Rossi had bad luck of a different kind, but managed to scramble back to finish eighth, losing just three points to the four-time series champion. Unofficially after 16 of 17 races this season, Dixon leads Rossi by 29 points.
One double-points race remains: the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16 at Sonoma Raceway (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). Though past series champions and Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power remain mathematically alive for the title, Dixon and Rossi are essentially the lone contenders heading to the final race of 2018.
Dixon was among those collected in a first-lap crash in Turn 3, but somehow avoided serious damage to his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. When the dust literally settled from the spin of James Hinchcliffe that led to Marco Andretti’s car flipping over the top of the cars of Hinchcliffe and Ed Jones, Dixon’s car was relatively unscathed. Dusty, but unscathed.
From there, Dixon used a fuel-saving strategy and fortunate timing with mid-race cautions to get a little more points breathing room for Sonoma. He even recovered from a drive-through penalty for a pit-speed violation to notch his 11th top-five finish of the season.
Rossi led a race-high 32 laps in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda but ended up on the wrong side of the caution flags and had to battle back to finish eighth. The Andretti Autosport driver had trimmed Dixon’s lead by more than half by winning two of the previous three races (Mid-Ohio and Pocono) and finishing second in the other (Gateway).
Team Penske effectively was eliminated from title contention when Power (finished 21st) had a host of trouble in the 105-lap race, including a gearbox issue and going off course into a tire barrier. Newgarden, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, settled for 10th place in the race.
Meanwhile up front, Sato held off Ryan Hunter-Reay for his third career victory and first since the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Sato is the eighth different driver to win a race this season.
Sato, in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, crossed the finish line 0.6084 of a second ahead of Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
The race marked the return of Indy car to the Pacific Northwest for the first time since 2007. The community’s welcome was impressive with a large crowd.