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Dixon Is The Calm Among the Chaos in Detroit: Chevrolet GP Race Report

Written by Katie Gregory

Just one week after the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar action continued as the series headed to downtown Detroit. Still fresh from the high of his Indy 500 victory, Josef Newgarden put in an impressive performance in Saturday's qualifying session. However, his momentum was no match for the motivation that came from defeat, which was evident as Colton Herta secured pole position. Having crashed and finished 23rd last weekend, Herta's pole position put him in the perfect position for a comeback.

However, a caution-filled race saw critical mistakes from our top contenders. Such a chaotic race would always reward the patient, and this rang true for Scott Dixon - who eventually emerged as the race winner.

As It Happened:

It looked to be a two-stop race, with the first stop coming around lap 40 and the second at lap 60. However, this would all depend on the need to fuel save, cautions and tyre choice. Colton Herta decided to start on the black, harder tyre - getting his stint on these out of the way. Starting in second place, Alex Palou opted for the green alternate softer tyre, therefore choosing an immediate speed advantage over longevity.

Colton Herta made excellent use of his pole position and had a great start which saw him take the preferential inside line. Further down the pack, Christian Lundgaard was the catalyst of the drama as turn three saw him lung down the inside - Theo Pourchaire had to take evasive action and tagged Will Power. Pourchaire wasn't the only McLaren driver caught up in the incident, as Pato O'Ward and Alexander Rossi were also derailed in the scuffle.

Colton Herta after winning the NTT IndyCar Series P1 Award

Credit: Ryan Fleming

After lining him up for a few laps, lap three saw Kyle Kirkwood finally pass Josef Newgarden for fourth place. Lap five saw early instigator Christian Lundgaard feeling risky once again, and he lunged on Dixon and eventually passed him to take sixth place - five positions up from where he started. Agustín Canapino was also a major mover within the early stages of the race, as lap six saw him enter the top 10 and up seven places from his starting position.

On the opposite trajectory was Pato O'Ward, who had fallen from 12th to 21st after getting caught up in the first lap chaos. His car had no damage, but his loss of track position was just another case of bad luck for the young McLaren driver.

Lap ten was a pivotal point in the race, as Alex Palou's green alternate tyre began to fall off - and did so at an alarming rate. Strategists up and down the paddock had predicted it would ultimately be an alternate race, meaning most drivers had run the black primary first - hoping to ditch it quickly and then switch to alternates for the rest of the race. Palou's suffering green tyres contradicted this completely, and while the Spanish driver struggled to gain any grip, other teams made the necessary adjustments to their strategy.

Palou had to head to the pitlane on lap 11 and switched his used greens for a sticker set. Scott McLaughlin moved up into second place, and looked to be in a pretty optimal position. McLaughlin had started on a set of used primaries and had the intent of monitoring Palou's tyres before making any other strategy calls. This had played out perfectly right in front of the Penske driver, and he could now adapt his strategy accordingly.

Lap 14 saw Lundgaard make another bold move, this time on recent Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden. Newgarden doesn't make it easy for Lundgaard, but after a few attempts eventually relents without contact. Despite having all the defending ability in the world, Newgarden was being actively handicapped by his bruised green tyres: and once he was passed by Lundgaard, Scott Dixon began to line him up.

Credit: Ryan Fleming

The second caution of the race was brought out on lap sixteen, in which a tag from Santino Ferruci left Helio Castroneves and Kyffin Simpson stuck together at turn five. Two laps later the first yellow pitstops began, in which Palou finally got rid of his greens and switched to the black primary. O'Ward and Power both switched their used primaries to a fresh set.

Taking a gamble, Kyle Kirkwood decided to stay out. He was in third place but was still running the green alternates he began the race on. Despite the fact they were falling off rapidly, Kirkwood opted to maintain his track position. Over the radio, the Andretti driver was asked if he could keep the greens going for another 20 laps. Kirkwood answered yes after a slight pause, appearing determined even if there were some underlying feelings of doubt.

Herta led the field to green on lap 22 and luckily for everyone, all the cars completed the restart cleanly. It was only two laps later when another spell of bad luck appeared, and took Christian Rasmussen out of the race. His engine blew, and his day was done as he headed to pitlane in a cloud of smoke.

Still on his suffering greens, lap 30 saw Kyle Kirkwood make the pass work on Josef Newgarden and he took third place. His track position was made even sweeter by his strategy calls, as Scott McLaughlin in second place was still yet to run a set of greens. This would end up irrelevant, however, as three laps later Scott McLaughlin locked his rears and ended up stranded in the wall - bringing out the third caution of the race.

Newgarden made the switch to the sticker alternates he still had to run, whilst Kirkwood finally put on the black primaries he had been waiting for. Christian Lundgaard, Alex Palou, Will Power and Agustin Canapino all chose to stay out.

Credit: Ryan Fleming

As if there wasn't enough chaos unfolding, lap 36 saw a spell of unforeseen rain change things entirely. The decision for the drivers was clear, but extremely difficult nonetheless. With the rain not on the team's radar, no one had any idea how long it would last. Either our drivers could switch to the wets, or hold off and hope the rain would be over soon. Both Pato O'Ward and Josef Newgarden took almost no time to deliberate and switched to the wets. Colton Herta made a bid to stay out but eventually headed to the pitlane for wets on lap 38.

Confident in his decision, but with no idea where it would take him, our resident risk-taker Christian Lundgaard overruled his team and decided to stay out. Kyle Kirkwood made the same decision, which would reap rewards for both the young drivers as the track began to dry up. Our other gamblers were Will Power, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi.

Another caution was brought out on lap 41, as Will Power tagged Rinus Veekay. With the pitlane open once more, drivers began to ditch their wet weather tyers. Upon exiting the pitlane, Josef Newgarden's wheel gun was not moved properly, meaning he was still connected to the wall and clipped a Rahal Letterman Lanigan team member. The staff member received an ice pack and luckily had no greater injuries.

The racing resumed on lap 46, with Kirkwood leading the field to green. It wasn't long, however, before his Andretti teammate brought out the fourth caution of the afternoon. At turn four, Herta had attempted to pass Palou - but came in too fast and couldn't find enough grip to back out, meaning he ended up in the wall. Herta couldn't get restarted in time and eventually rejoined the race a lap down.

Having been successful in many of his gambles so far, it was only natural that Christian Lundgaard would try another. Unfortunately, lap 51 saw his luck run out as he attempted his final lunge of the race. Lundgaard tried to make it work on Romain Grosjean, but ended up taking them both out, and collected an innocent Marcus Armstrong along the way. This brought out the sixth caution of the race, and Christian Lundgaard was punished with a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact.

Credit: Ryan Fleming

The next caution of the race came in the form of a stranded Sting Ray Robb, who came into contact with Scott McLaughlin. Lap 65 saw the action head to pitlane, as the drivers began to make yellow flag pitstops. Having pitted just ten laps prior, Scott Dixon didn't need to head to pitlane again - and so filtered his way to first place, eventually leading the field to green. On the same strategy, his teammate and fellow Kiwi Marcus Armstrong had cycled through to second place. However, as the rest of the pack had been refuelled more recently - in order to stay ahead, the Chip Ganassi Drivers would have to hit their fuel-number perfectly.

As soon as the race resumed, the focus almost immediately left the leading man as the track went under caution yet again. Further down the pack, Josef Newgarden had spun and took out the innocent Alex Palou. The race eventually resumed on lap 74, and to the driver's credit, there was no incident and the entire lap remained green!

Kyle Kirkwood would have been thrilled with this, and he was sitting in third place and had 26 laps to change this. Unlike the other front-runners, Kirkwood did not have to fuel save, and began to line up Marcus Armstrong. However, despite valiant efforts from Kirkwood, Armstrong defended brilliantly and held the position with all his might. After all, he was not just defending his teammate - Armstrong was also fighting for his first IndyCar podium.

Credit: Ryan Fleming

Instead of attacking, Kirkwood eventually had to shift his focus to defending, as the fourth place Marcus Ericsson had begun to eye him up. By lap 97, Ericsson had made light work of his younger teammate and soon had his eyes ahead to second place. Having defended like a lion, Marcus Armstrong's tyres were gone and he was vulnerable to an Ericsson attack. With two to go, Ericsson made it work on Armstrong and had his sights set on the win.

But as there was only one lap to go, Dixon had already claimed the victory with ease. After a truly earned celebration, Dixon was accompanied on the podium by Marcus Ericsson and Marcus Armstrong, both of which had drives to be extremely proud of.

In a race filled with chaos, uncertainty and drama - experience will always come in handy, of which Dixon has in abundance. While other drivers hope luck is on their side, Scott Dixon creates his own.

He may let others take the spotlight for practice and even qualifying, but Scott Dixon was truly the driver of the weekend in Detroit. And after that masterclass, it is only fitting that he is your new NTT IndyCar Series points leader.


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