The Verizon IndyCar series returned to the iconic Watkins Glen International Raceway for the first time in 6 years this past Sunday.
With the IndyCar GP at the Glen being the penultimate round of the IndyCar championship battle, there was much at stake.
Simon Pagenaud’s season long points lead was down to 28 over Penske Racing teammate Will Power despite Power missing the first race of the season with what was determined to be an inner ear problem. Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Ryan Hunter-Reay were still looking for their first win of the season. Josef Newgarden, the series’ biggest free agent was still looking to show he deserved a top ride next year.
The lightning fast repaved Watkins Glen was the perfect setting for a championship showdown.
And then Scott Dixon rolled his #9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevy powered Dallara off the truck and on to the track. It quickly became obvious the race would be for second place.
Dixon was fastest in every practice session, cruised (albeit with a little excitement) into the Firestone Fast 6 then blistered the track with the fastest lap ever at WGI and the second fastest road course lap in the history of IndyCar on his way to the pole.
Will Power was just a tick slower for a P2 starting spot, just missing out on a valuable championship point but still 5 spots in front of championship leader Pagenaud.
At the drop of the green flag, Dixon was gone. Power slid into P2 and Pagenuad, with an exceptionally bold move into turn one, snatched away P3. Dixon would go on to lead 50 of the 60 lap race, but the end was not without some drama.
Power’s championship hopes took a hit (as did Power himself) when he and Charlie Kimball got together coming out of the esses, pushing Power hard into the outside armco barrier and destroying his race car. Power was initially not cleared to drive fearing a concussion but has since been cleared to resume driving by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar medical director, after the Team Penske driver successfully passed concussion testing protocol today.
Power’s crash set up a round of pit stops that allowed everyone to pack their fuel tanks full and get 4 new tires.
The green flag came out with 18 laps remaining, the exact number that had been determined to be the maximum anyone could stretch a fuel run.
Well, mere mortals anyway. A group that does not include Scott Dixon.
Dixon has almost a miraculous ability to save fuel while turning faster laps than anyone else. And when the green came out, he resumed his position at the front of the field and as his competitors dialed back their boost and coasted and clutched and STILL needed fuel, Dixon, out for a Sunday drive through upstate New York, won easily.
Josef Newgarden nursed his car home to the second step on the podium, and Helio Castroneves took P3 by driving as hard as he could and stopping for but 2 seconds of fuel.
It was heartbreak for the second week in a row for James Hinchcliffe as his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda coasted to a stop on the backstretch, out of fuel. Hinch lost in Texas last week to Graham Rahal by 0.008 seconds on a last lap, last corner pass.
Pagenuad didn’t take as much advantage of Power’s crash as he could have but still managed a seventh place finish, building his points lead to 43 heading into the double points, season finale in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway in northern California’s Napa Valley.
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Eric Barnes @ebarnes442