Photo: Richard Dowdy
Scott Dixon (#9 Chip Ganassi Racing-Chevy), who entered the weekend with just one Top 5 finish in eight Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starts, won this year’s edition by 2.2221 sec over pole-sitter Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske-Chevy).Dixon's victory was his 36th overall, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. Al Unser is fourth with 39 victories.
Dixon beat Castroneves off pit lane on Lap 29 following each of their first stops, taking the lead and holding it in a race that had only one caution during its 80 laps. During the crucial pit stop, Castroneves was held in his pit box by chief mechanic Travis Law to avoid contact with the incoming #10 Ganassi car driven by Tony Kanaan. The extra second was critical. And though the #3 crew had a blazing second and final stop on Lap 55, Dixon was 0.6 sec ahead of Castroneves on his out lap entering Turn 1.
"This is huge," Dixon said. "I love the event, but as far as coming here and doing well it hadn't been on that list. That pit stop exchange definitely helped us get to the lead but the car was fast and all we had to do was maintain that lead."
Castroneves second straight runner-up finish moved him to within three points of Team Penske teammate and championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya (#2) as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park for the April 26 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Montoya, who won the season opener at St. Petersburg, placed third. Simon Pagenaud (#22 Penske) finished fourth and Kanaan earned his second Top 5 finish of the young season.
Dixon also tied Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Castroneves atop the all-time list with an Indy car victory in 11 consecutive seasons, and has 13 seasons with at least one victory. A.J. Foyt with 18 is the leader and Mario Andretti with 16 is second.
"The guys did a great job in the pits,” said Castroneves after the race, “especially the incident between me and Ganassi. It was just perfect. It was better to be safe than sorry, but it was a great job overall for Team Penske. At the end of the day, second place is not bad."
"We had to use up our tires trying to close the gap,” said Kanaan. “Towards the end once you get that close, we didn't have it. When we got backed up with Montoya and Pagenaud, that slowed us down a bit. [Sebastien Bourdais (#11 KVSH-Chevy) and Josef Newgarden (#67 CFH Racing-Chevy] caught us, but it was under control. Good result for the team, got some good points for the championship."