Dixon, Honda Come Home Second in Iowa Opener
- Scott Dixon, Honda cap hectic final 50-lap run to finish second at Iowa Speedway
- Alexander Rossi nets sixth-place finish for Andretti Autosport
- Second round of doubleheader weekend runs Saturday night
NEWTON, Iowa (July 17, 2020) – Taking advantage of an extended caution on Lap 144 to make the second of his three scheduled pit stops, Scott Dixon took used fresh tires and strong Honda fuel mileage to work his way to the front of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES field, finishing second in Friday night’s opening race of a doubleheader weekend at Iowa Speedway.
Starting 17th after a difficult qualifying run, Dixon’s Chip Ganasi Racing crew made setup changes at each of his three pit stops to improve the handling of his Honda-powered chassis. Combined with the long third stint, Dixon clawed his way to second, battling with eventual Simon Pagenaud throughout the last 50 laps of the 250-lap contest before finishing second, less than a half second behind Pagenaud at the checkers.
The tight, nine-tenths of a mile Iowa Speedway short oval is traditionally hard on tires, and tonight’s race was no exception, as drivers and teams experimented with various strategies to be able to run traffic-free laps on new tires.
One of the first drivers to go for the “undercut” by pitting early, Takuma Sato then made up ground running quickly in clean air as his competitors pitted. The strategy appeared to be paying off, as Sato led 49 laps mid-race. But a caution on Lap 144 ended those chances as Sato, teammate Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay all went a lap down to the leaders who were able to pit prior to the yellow flag.
The caution, called initially for a single-car crash by Will Power, was then followed by a spectacular crash involving Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay on an attempted Lap 156 restart. All drivers were uninjured in the incidents.
One of the quicker cars on fresh tires, Alexander Rossi ran as high as fourth early in several stints, but faded to a sixth-place finish in the closing laps. Running only his second oval race outside of Indianapolis, Jack Harvey finished an encouraging seventh for Meyer Shank Racing. Marcus Ericsson had another strong run in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to take the checkers in ninth, while Sato rounded out the top 10 for Honda, the first car one lap down.
Tonight’s race was the opening round of a doubleheader NTT INDYCAR SERIES weekend at Iowa Speedway. Tomorrow’s 250-lap finale starts at 8:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network.
Honda Racing social media content and videos from Iowa Speedway will be available on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD) and on Twitter at (https://twitter.com/HondaRacing_HPD). Produced by the CoForce Digital Media, YouTube videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 17th, finished second; continues to lead NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship by 50 points after five races: “Proud to powered by Honda and HPD, they do a tremendous job. I think our fuel mileage is really what enabled us to stay out and jump a couple of cars. I think those cautions obviously did help us. We had a pretty dreadful car in qualifying and – with the ‘parc ferme’ rules in place between qualifying and the race – you can’t change anything on the car after qualifying. So it took us a little while [making chassis adjustments at each pit stop] to get going. But a huge credit to the NTT Bank crew, they did a hell of a job tonight. You’ve got to take these nights and make the most of them.”
Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport Honda) Started eighth, finished sixth: “For us, there were two parts to the race tonight. The AutoNation Andretti Honda was one of the stronger cars out there, but we struggled with tire life. Ultimately, I think we were on the right strategy to win the race, but we just didn’t have the car to do it. It’s a bit unfortunate. Had that yellow not come out and we could’ve run the race we planned, we probably would have ended a couple of spots higher, but I don’t think we would’ve won the race. But we have a pretty good car, and we’ve had two decent finishes now [third at Road America last Sunday and sixth tonight in Iowa], we just need to make the car a bit better in the practice session tomorrow.”
Allen Miller (Race Team Principal, Honda Performance Development) on Friday’s Iowa 250: “Tonight’s race demonstrated why short ovals are so challenging for the teams, and exciting for the fans to watch. Everything changed dramatically in the final 50 laps, it made for another exciting finish here. Congratulations to Scott [Dixon] and Alexander [Rossi], who were both tenacious in the final 50 laps and well-earned their results. Special thanks to all the great fans who were able to come out here this weekend. Now we’re looking forward to doing it again tomorrow night, with hopefully just a slightly better result!”