In an exciting finish that left many in the near sellout-crowd standing throughout the final 15 laps, Honda-powered Scott Dixon battled defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay throughout the closing stages of Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama, coming up just six-tenths of a second short of the victory at the checkers.
After starting on the outside of the second row, fourth, Dixon lost two positions at the start while avoiding contact with Will Power, who had gone wide and briefly off-track at the first turn. He remained near the front of the field throughout the first two-thirds of the 90-lap contest moving from sixth to second and back to fourth as several other competitors – including Power, Helio Castroneves and fellow Honda driver Simon Pagenaud – committed to “off-sequence” pit strategies in a bid to move to the front.
After the final round of pit stops on Lap 70, Castroneves led, followed by Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Power and an impressive Charlie Kimball, having his best run since finishing second at the Honda Grand Prix of Toronto in 2012. Hunter-Reay, and then Dixon, passed Castroneves by Lap 76, and for the remainder of the race, Dixon closed in on Hunter-Reay, but was unable to get by.
It was Dixon’s fourth consecutive second-place finish in the four-year history of the race which, coupled with a fifth-place result at the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, puts Dixon second in the drivers’ championship, just nine points behind early-season leader Castroneves.
Behind Dixon, Kimball led three laps today and passed Will Power – a two-time winner at Barber – to finish fourth. Pagenaud recovered from a disappointing 13th starting position to finish sixth for Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. Justin Wilson recovered from a problematic first pit stop – which dropped him from fifth to 19th when the car was dropped off the jacks before the tire change was completed – to finish eighth; while second-year Honda-powered racer Josef Newgarden finished a career-best ninth for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.
After opening the 2013 season with a pair of races in the Southeast, the IZOD IndyCar Series now goes cross-country, continuing in two weeks time with the April 21 Grand Prix of Long Beach in Southern California.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 4th, finished 2nd, moves to 2nd in the drivers’ championship standings: “I think we had the fastest car today, for sure, but never got a long run in clean air. Spending so much time in traffic, especially in the middle part of the race, hurt us. It left us with too much ground to make up after the final round of pit stops. Congratulations to Ryan [Hunter-Reay], he did a hell of a job today. Our car was very quick, but clearly I have to go out and buy a bridesmaid’s dress tonight [after four consecutive second-place finishes at Barber].”
Charlie Kimball (#83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara) started 5th, finished 4th: \"The whole team did a great job this weekend, from the guys in the pits to the engineering staff working on race strategy. I just had to get it done on the race track. We started to see some real improvement at St. Petersburg, but didn’t really get the result we deserved [finishing 12th]. But it all came together for us today and it feels great.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: \"After the disappointment we all felt at St. Petersburg, it was good to see several Honda cars battling at the front of the field. Scott Dixon appeared to have the fastest car in the closing laps, but came up a few laps short of victory. Still, his relentless pursuit of Ryan [Hunter-Reay] was inspiring to watch. Charlie Kimball also produced a great drive today, and it was fun to see Josef Newgarden come from 22nd on the grid to his first top-ten finish. It was great to see all the Honda supporters in the crowd, both in the ‘H-Block’ fan zone and the large group attending from Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. Now, we go on to Long Beach even more determined to win.”