Richmond, Va. Scott Dixon grabbed the lead from teammate Dario Franchitti in the only spot he could have — on pit road — and made a bit of history Saturday night.
Dixon won for the 19th time in the IndyCar Series, tying Sam Hornish Jr.’s career victories record, and said the night could have been a turning point in the season.
While he and Franchitti gave Target Chip Ganassi Racing a 1-2 finish, the other dynamic team — Team Penske — had a miserable night in which neither Ryan Briscoe, the points leader at the start, or Helio Castroneves finished. Castroneves wound up 17th, Briscoe 19th.
“Any time you can make a gain on the Penskes, you’ve got to take that and try to run with it,” said Dixon, who earned his series-best third win of the season. “Tonight was a big gain for us and could be a pivotal point of the season.”
The result was better than the show that produced it, however, as the smallest oval in the IndyCar Series allowed for one-groove racing and almost no passing all night long.
“You just had to keep trying to follow the car in front of you,” Dixon said.
Franchitti, who started first and led most of the first half of the race, found out how frustrating it had been for others to be behind Dixon.
“Once Scott got ahead, we tried our best to pass him, but we couldn’t get it done,” Franchitti said. “Nobody could pass. ... Everybody was out there hanging on.”
Franchitti, who won this race and the series championship two years ago before a brief dalliance with NASCAR, moved past Briscoe and into the points lead, one ahead of Dixon.
But he knew it wasn’t pretty.
“I have to apologize to the fans because that was an awful, awful race,” he said.
But the front-runners stayed there with patience and a bit of good fortune.
Twice they held out just long enough — watching most of the field head down pit road as the field zipped by under a green flag — and got the yellow flags that made it pay off, allowing them to make stops without losing ground.
Graham Rahal also benefited from the fortunate timing, while it took the chance of dueling for the victory away from Andretti-Green Racing teammates Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick.