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Scott Dixon dominates Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Scott Dixon – Genesys 300. Photo by Joe Skibinski

 

By Mike Haag, Raceday San Antonio

FORT WORTH, Texas – Scott Dixon was a man on a mission Saturday night at the NTT IndyCar Series Genesys 300 race at Texas Motor Speedway.

And there was no way anyone could stop him.

Scott Dixon. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, led 206 of the 212 laps and soared to a .2646 of a second margin of victory over Scott McLaughlin in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, who was racing on an oval for the first time.

Pato O’Ward finished third in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet to round out the podium of finishers.

“It was a bit of a crazy night for us,” Dixon said. “Definitely very tense there at the end. It was kind of cool to be racing a countryman for the last few laps. Fifth win at Texas, baby! That was awesome.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

The victory was Dixon’s 51st career win for the six-time NTT INDYCAR Series champion and it marks his 19th INDYCAR season with at least one victory.  In addition, he took over the series points lead with a record fifth career victory on the 1.5-mile oval at Texas.  He is also one win shy of tying Mario Andretti for No. 2 on the all-time win list. A.J. Foyt leads with 67 wins.

“It feels amazing to be in this position,” Dixon said. “You just never want it to end. We want to go back-to-back and try to tie Mario tomorrow. I’m sure that’s not exactly what he wants to see. We’ll keep our heads down. It’s extremely tough. This season has been one of the toughest starts, I think, for a lot of us just with how tight the competition is.”

Scott McLaughlin (3). Photo by Michael C. Johnson

McLaughlin’s debut at Texas was a stellar performance.

“I had a tremendous amount of fun, about as much fun as I thought I was going to have,” McLaughlin said.  “The PPG Chevy was great. We also had great strategy calls, pit stops. The crew on pit road were unbelievable. Have to thank them a huge amount.”

McLaughlin added, “It’s a big thing taking on my first oval race. Just tried to get through the first few laps. I was pretty cautious, probably too cautious in my first stint. Just sort of worked up to it. Managed to dodge the Bourdais wreck, which was pretty close for me. Then the Hinchcliffe one which put us right there.  I think I’ve still got a bit of time before I’m comfortable. I don’t think you’re ever comfortable.”

O’Ward was also pleased with his finish.

Pato O’Ward (5). Photo by Michael C. Johnson

“We had a strong showing tonight,” O’Ward said.  “We had a very fast race car. We were kind of stuck in the first stint. It was really, really difficult to pass. Like Scottie said, my guys made a really good strategy call and we made up a lot of track position midway through the race before the last stint. They were great in the pits, especially in the last pit stop that we could get that last position to get to the podium.”

O’Ward added.  “From there, we kind of nursed it home. We were having some brake temp issues at the end so I didn’t really want to make anything too risky to throw it away. I’m happy. We did a good step forward from where we ended last weekend. We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We should have a better starting position as well, so that should make our lives a lot easier.”

Alex Palou. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Alex Palou, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi, Takumo Sato, and Simon Pagenaud.

Rain on Friday night and early Saturday morning soaked the track which forced officials to cancel qualifying. The starting grid was based on points.  Palou started on the pole.  Will Power started second followed by Dixon and Colton Herta.

Palou, who won the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park, entered the race with the points lead.  He led the first two laps before Dixon grabbed the lead.  Dixon held a 0.4-of-a-second lead over his teammate after 15 laps and maintained the lead until green-flag pit stops began on Lap 53.  Palou ended up only leading six laps and he was the only other driver to lead a lap during the race.

Colton Herta (26), Rinus VeeKay (21) and Will Power (12). Photo by Michael C. Johnson

Herta, who won last weekend race at St. Petersburg, placed 22nd after a mechanical problem in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda sidelined him on Lap 190.

There were only two cautions for 29 laps. The first caution was waved on Lap 55 when Sebastien Bourdais made hard contact with the outside retaining wall after being tapped from behind by Newgarden.

The second caution slowed the field on Lap 160 when Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe made contact in Turn 2, forcing Hinchcliffe to crash into the outside wall.  When the race restared on Lap 175 McLaughlin with Palou in tow made a late charge on Dixon but were unsuccessful.

Scott McLaughlin (3). Photo by Michael C. Johnson

The PJ1 compound that TMS officials applied in the turns for the NASCAR races at Texas caused problems for the drivers. They were forced to drive down low through the turns which prevented them from running a second groove.

“From my perspective, you just can’t use the second lane,” McLaughlin said.  “It’s very difficult at three and four, and at one and two. Unfortunately that’s just how it is. That’s all I’ve experienced here, so that’s all I know. I still think you can get some reasonable runs, but it just makes you probably a little bit nervous to maybe throw down on the high side into one or into two. I saw firsthand what happened to Hinchcliffe. He got dirty air pushed up, went up onto the PJ1 and he was gone.”

Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

O’Ward agreed.

“From my side, same as Scott,” O’Ward said.  “Honestly I didn’t really try going up there. I didn’t want to make a stupid mistake and hit the wall. But it’s still a no go zone in my book.”

Dixon also expressed concerns about the PJ1 compound.

“I don’t know,” Dixon said.  “I feel like just everybody tries to steer clear of it, which I think if you’re going to use it it needs to be early. The problem is once you keep running on the bottom, then the marbles just build up, that becomes more of a problem.”

Dixon heads into Sunday’s XPEL 375 race with an 18-point lead over Palou. Power is third followed by O’Ward, Harvey, McLaughlin, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Rahal and Herta.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) at the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

“Tomorrow is going to be different, the conditions are maybe going to be a little bit tougher just because of the ambient, more of a day race, maybe a little more sunlight on the track, which I think it will be good,” Dixon said.  “Hopefully there’s more deg for a lot of cars. It doesn’t guarantee you anything.”

Dixon added, “I think you can see from the race, if you slip up at any point, it can definitely cost you a lot of spots. To try to get back on that, it takes you a little bit of time. Maybe we’ll see more variants tomorrow because it’s slightly longer, add an extra stop to the race. Just the competition on pit lane is super intense for a lot of people now.  Yeah, you got to take them where you can, man. Tomorrow is going to be super tough, I know that. It doesn’t guarantee us anything. We should have a pretty good starting spot, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything.”

Notes:

In practice Tony Kanaan led the practice session with a top lap of 220.173 mph. Kanaan was making his season debut, taking over the No. 48 from rookie Jimmie Johnson in the four oval races this season.  O’Ward was second-quickest in practice with a top lap of 219.934.  Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato was third at 219.868, Dixon was fourth at 219.723 and Pagenaud rounded out the top five at 219.708.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers will race again Sunday evening at Texas in the XPEL 375.  The 248-lap race begins at 4:15 p.m. and will broadcast live on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 33 years. In addition to covering motorsports for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 16 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike taught high school English and Journalism for 30 years before retiring in May, 2020.