Scott Dixon thrust himself back into the thick of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Driver’s Championship battle, and Honda claimed the lead in the fight for the Manufacturers’ Championship with a dominant performance Saturday in Houston, Texas, as Dixon took his fourth and Honda’s ninth win of the season in the first of two 90-lap races on the Reliant Center temporary street circuit.
On a very hot and humid afternoon, Dixon spent the opening third of today’s 90-lap contest stalking early leader Will Power, then claimed the lead with a quicker service by his Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew and faster “out-lap” during the first round of pit stops. Dixon and Power continued to lead the field during the middle race segment, but Dixon was able to seize a big advantage when his second stop took place just before one of seven caution flags to wave today.
On the final restart, on Lap 77, Dixon rocketed away from second-place Simona de Silvestro, opening up a lead of more than 2.5 seconds in the opening lap. Dixon continued to pull away in the closing laps, as de Silvestro became embroiled in a battle for second place with the Honda-powered cars of Justin Wilson and Simon Pagenaud. But yet another yellow, with just three laps remaining, froze the field to the checkers.
Dixon’s win is a series-high fourth of the season, and closed him to within eight points of championship leader Helio Castroneves, with two races remaining in the season.
The late-race yellow ended Wilson’s chances of finishing second, but the Dale Coyne Racing driver still posted his fourth podium finish of the season. Pagenaud also kept his championship hopes alive with a fourth-place finish for Schmidt Hamilton Racing. He goes into tomorrow’s 90-lap race third in the championship, 50 points behind Castroneves with 104 points still in play.
Takuma Sato, who started on the pole for the Houston-based A.J. Foyt Racing team, led the first seven laps before a cut tire forced an early pit stop and ended his chances at victory. After a crash in practice Friday, Josef Newgarden battled his way through the field to finish fifth for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, his second consecutive top-five result this season. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan duo of James Jakes and Graham Rahal finished sixth and seventh, respectively, as Honda drivers and teams claimed seven of the top eight finishing positions.
Honda Fastest Seat in Sports winner Morris Feigel from Edmond, Oklahoma, led the field prior to the green flag in the two-seat Honda IndyCar driven by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara) started 3rd, finished 1st, his 4th IndyCar victory of 2013; Honda’s series-leading 9th race win of the season: “It’s fun to race that way. We really have to race for it [the championship]. It’s nice to be back on the top step of the [victory] podium. The team had a fantastic strategy, and we had a bit of luck with [the timing] of the cautions. It was very similar to [his two wins at] Toronto, where you could just set up and maintain pace early in the race, and then put the gas down when the time was right. Hopefully, we can have another good race tomorrow. The Honda engines are definitely strong, and it would be nice to go to [the season finale at] California with a little bit of a [championship points] buffer.”
Justin Wilson (#19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara) started 12th, finished 3rd: “The car was great early in the race and we started to move up, but then I felt a tire going down and we had to pit a bit early. After that, I had to conserve fuel [to make the finish], but I was pushing the whole way. Hopefully, we can qualify stronger tomorrow and put ourselves in a position to win.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: \"Today’s result illustrates the total commitment by everyone at HPD to winning the 2013 IndyCar Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ championships, and we moved one giant step closer to both of those goals today. It’s gratifying to see that same commitment from the Chip Ganassi Racing organization, and all of our teams. Congratulations to Scott [Dixon] on his series-leading fourth victory this year, and to Simon [Pagenaud] for his fourth-place result, as both remain in the thick of the championship fight. Honda swept both previous double header weekends this year [Detroit and Toronto] and our goal now is to finish the sweep tomorrow.”