Race Weekend Central

Scott Dixon Plays Strategy, Holds Off Graham Rahal to Win at Indianapolis

After spinning on the first lap of Saturday’s (Aug. 12) Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Scott Dixon played a subtle tire strategy and his trademark ice-cold composure under pressure to hold off a hard charging Graham Rahal for his first win of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season.

With this win, Dixon extends his streak of consecutive seasons with a win in IndyCar to 19. Rahal, who started on the pole for the first time since 2017, nearly ran down the New Zealander in the race’s final laps, but fuel saving and tire management allowed Dixon to mount a sufficient defense and ensure Rahal will wait at least two more weeks for his first win in over six years.

“Huge credit to the team, it’s been a trying year for us,” Dixon told NBC Sports after the race.

“Where things could have rolled our way, they haven’t. But they never give up … The only problem there toward the end, I think on my out laps I pushed it too hard to create that gap on Graham and unfortunately burnt the tires up a little bit, so it was pretty sketchy at the end but we tried to put on a show for everyone.”

The race looked to be Rahal’s to lose for much of the afternoon. Dixon was nowhere to be seen after being collected in a first-lap incident which left Josef Newgarden, the only challenger to Alex Palou‘s claim to the Astor Cup in 2023, with heavy damage. Newgarden eventually finished 25th, multiple laps down as Palou took a seventh-place finish. Marcus Armstrong also sustained damage in the incident and finished two laps down.

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AJ Allmendinger Earns Pole for Xfinity Indy Road Course Race

Dixon was one of seven drivers who chose to pit under caution, coming in on lap five. Meanwhile Rahal ran comfortably up front, passing Devlin DeFrancesco for the lead. The Canadian sophomore at Andretti Autosport initially took control of the race on the first lap with a late dive around Rahal into turn 1. Rahal retook the lead from DeFrancesco on lap 9.

Dixon quietly took his place as the race leader on lap 29, when Palou and Marcus Ericsson made their pit stops; he was joined at the head of the pack by Romain Grosjean, who also pitted during the first caution of the day. Dixon made his second pit stop on lap 33, handing the lead back to Rahal.

When Rahal came in on lap 49, Dixon took a seven-second lead over the No. 15 driver, but attention was drawn to then-leader Christian Lundgaard, who had spent most of the day toward the front of the field after starting next to his teammate on the front row. A fuel mishap in the pits took Lundgaard out of contention, while Dixon’s strategy play had still gone largely unnoticed.

When Dixon pitted from the lead on lap 60, strapping on a fresh set of Firestone Alternate tires, ears pricked up as it had become apparent that Dixon had made his last stop of the day while Rahal would still need to pit one more time to make it to the end of the race.

Rahal pitted on lap 64 and emerged with a six-second deficit to Dixon. The Ohio native began pumping out fast laps, being three quarters of a second faster than Dixon at times. By lap 70 the gap was only 4.2 seconds, 3.6 by lap 72, 2.9 by lap 75.

Lapped traffic may have saved the day for Dixon, as the No. 20 car of Ryan Hunter-Reay drew the ire of Rahal, who struggled to pass the 2014 Indy 500 winner whom Dixon had passed two laps earlier.

Once Rahal got around Hunter-Reay, the fight was on once again and Rahal cut Dixon’s lead to a mere third of a second by the end of the penultimate lap. However, Dixon appeared to have saved fuel and tires during his time in the lead and the No. 9 pulled away from Rahal considerably throughout the final lap. The No. 15 came close enough to grab Dixon’s gearbox during the final few corners, but close was not close enough to deny Dixon the win.

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Daniel Suarez Tops Indy Road Course Qualifying

Felix Rosenqvist was the only retirement of the day, dropping out of the race after 68 laps with a gearbox failure.

2023 IndyCar Gallagher Grand Prix Results

The next round of the 2023 IndyCar season will be the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Coverage will begin on Sunday, Aug. 27 at 3;30 p.m. on NBC.

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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Jeremy

Interesting that without being forced into that alternate strategy, Dixon pulls another 4th or 5th place finish (maybe 3rd), but I don’t think he had quite enough car to contend for the win had he been on the same strategy as Rahal.

Not to say it was easy, he had to maintain pace while saving fuel and time things just right to get where he was. Absolute masterpiece of driving from that standpoint and the reason his name is firmly placed amongst the greatest of all time.

WJW Motorsports

Agreed – but it also helps when the caution that the guy looking for 19 in a row needs to make it on 2 gets, um, extended long enough to make it a reality.

Jeremy

True. I couldn’t believe it took what, 8 laps of caution to clear that?

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