Dixon leads Chip Ganassi Racing 1-2-3 finish at Pocono
Long Pond, PA (Sports Network) - Chip Ganassi Racing came up big in the IndyCar Series' return to Pocono Raceway.
Scott Dixon won Sunday's 400-mile race, while his teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti finished second and third, respectively, to give Ganassi a podium sweep at this unique 2.5-mile triangular racetrack.
This was the first Indy car race to be held at Pocono since 1989 when the event was sanctioned by CART.
Dixon overcame a 10-grid spot penalty. He qualified seventh on Saturday but had to start 17th due to an unapproved engine change. Dixon also had contact with Tony Kanaan late in the race but did not suffer any damage to his Ganassi car.
He grabbed the lead from Kimball with 28 laps remaining and then held off Kimball at the finish by 0.46 seconds. Dixon scored his 30th career IndyCar win but his first since last August at Mid-Ohio.
"Going into this morning, I did not think we could win," said Dixon, who led two times for a total of 38 laps. "The team definitely hasn't given up, and you've got to hand it to Honda as well. I think fuel mileage was the big key today. And we still had speed up front without having to save all the time."
Prior to Pocono, Dixon had led only one lap this season, which came in the May 26 Indianapolis 500.
"It's been a long drought, almost a year, so it's fantastic to be back in winner's circle," he said.
Dixon gave Honda its 200th win in IndyCar competition.
Kimball's second-place run matched his career-best finish in the series.
"The whole Chip Ganassi Racing crew was focusing on the race day, knowing that was when it mattered," Kimball said. "The guys made my car better on each pit stop, and the car just got quicker and quicker. A lot of credit to Honda. They gave us great fuel mileage and the speed to get it done."
Franchitti's third-place finish was his best this season. He also made an engine change after qualifying, which forced him to start in 20th.
"It's very gratifying," Franchitti said. "We struggled yesterday. We had a bit of a sit down with Honda and changed the engine. The guys from Honda have done a great job with the fuel mileage. We don't have the power that we need yet, but they've been working so hard. We saw with the fuel mileage today that it helped put all three of the Ganassi cars in the catbird seat there."
It's the first time Ganassi has posted a 1-2-3 finish in an IndyCar race. Team Penske was the last team to accomplish the feat, doing so in 2011 at Sonoma Raceway.
"When I was coming in here this morning, late from last night in Daytona (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race), I had no idea that we would finish one, two and three," team owner Chip Ganassi said. "I was just hoping for a decent finish."
While Ganassi prevailed, Andretti Autosport had a frustrating race one day after its driver swept the top-three starting positions in qualifying.
Starting third, James Hinchcliffe spun around and backed it into the wall in turn 1 on the opening lap. Hinchcliffe picked up his third win of the season two weeks ago with a dominating performance at Iowa. He led 226 of 250 laps there. He was not injured during the accident but suffered a sore knee.
"It just snapped, and I got loose," said Hinchcliffe, who finished 24th. "It's just so weird. I had a moment like that in qualifying. I guess I used up all of my luck. For the downforce level that we were running and the setup that we had, there's just no way I would have thought that's the kind of accident that would have taken us out, especially on lap 1."
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the second starter, was involved in an accident with Takuma Sato on pit road in the early going. Hunter-Reay, who is the defending series champion, was driving down pit lane when Sato entered the pits too fast and ran into the side of him. Sato took blame for the incident.
"I was just too fast, and I got into the back of Ryan," Sato said. "I'm extremely sorry to Andretti Autosport. It was my fault."
Hunter-Reay made repairs and came back on the track but retired shortly after and ended finishing 39 laps down in 20th.
"I couldn't believe it. I thought a plane had crashed and hit me or something," Hunter-Reay said. "I didn't expect it would be Sato coming from so far back. I was just coming onto pit lane and minding my own business. Then I just get creamed from behind. He was nowhere even near to slowing the car down. He just unplugged his brain entirely, and he's playing a role in the championship again. It's unfortunate."
Andretti, who was hoping to win at his home track, started on the pole and led 88 of 160 laps, but Andretti faded in the closing laps while trying to conserve fuel. The Nazareth, Pa. native crossed the line in 10th before running out of gas and coming to a stop on the track during his cool-down lap.
"I'm so frustrated," Andretti said. "We were so dominant, and I'm just absolutely gutted."
Will Power finished fourth, while Josef Newgarden took the fifth spot. Simon Pagenaud was sixth, followed by Justin Wilson, Helio Castroneves, the current points leader, and Ed Carpenter.
After his run-in with Dixon, Kanaan had to pit for a new front wing. He finished 13th, the last car on the lead lap. Kanaan, who won the Indy 500, would have collected a $250,000 bonus had he taken the checkered flag at Pocono. He led four times for 15 laps. Pocono was the second of three races on this year's "Triple Crown" bonus program in IndyCar.
Castroneves now holds a 23-point advantage over Hunter-Reay. Andretti fell 55 points behind the leader. Dixon moved up to fourth in the standings (-65), followed by Hinchcliffe (-84).
07/07 16:40:07 ET