RACING

Dixon edges out McLaughlin to win in Nashville mayhem

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Last year’s opening Nashville Grand Prix had nine warnings and is remembered to be a wild spectacle that ended with a most unexpected winner in Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson, who crashed early of the race but recovered to reach victory lane in what has been dubbed the ‘Music Miracle of the City.’

For anyone who thought it would be impossible for the second edition of the Tennessean Street Race to be as bad as the first… well, think again. After eight warnings and nearly half the race – 36 of the 80 laps – passed behind the pace car, 2022 had significant parallels to 2021 as Ericsson teammate Scott Dixon got tangled up in a crash and managed to overcome adversity and claim his second victory of the season.

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Dixon won an all-New Zealand drag race to cross the finish line just 0.1067 seconds ahead of Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin after a late red flag turned the event into a two-lap sprint where the #9 Honda CGR – with a broken left-rear diffuser and mangled strake – pushed back the charging #3 Chevy to give Ganassi a perfect record at the happiest site on the calendar.

CGR’s Alex Palou survived to take the final podium spot despite spending half the race with a broken left front wing which he unnecessarily damaged after hitting Penske’s Will Power during a bridge pass . His #10 Honda was .6100 behind Dixon at the checkered flag.

“Congratulations to the team,” Dixon said. “We had a big crash there and took half the floor of the car off. We had to do four corners with the front wing so we had no grip, then I think we did about 45 or 50 laps with this last set of tyres; we didn’t even take any tires [on the last pit stop] such great credit to Firestone. Aww man, Nashville is so awesome.

The victory propelled Dixon into the only passion for second place on the all-time IndyCar win list with 53, behind only AJ Foyt at 67. For poleman McLaughlin, who considers Dixon a national hero, the drag race was a dream come true, minus the second part of finishing.

“I didn’t make it in the end, but congratulations to Scotty,” he said. “It was always my dream to race it to the finish, but it was a real duel and I had a lot of fun. That’s why I come to race in IndyCar – it’s the best race in the world.

Starting fourth, Palou was in the game all day, leading more laps than anyone with 31, but as endless warnings shook up strategies he was forced to settle for third.

“Any day you’re on the podium is a good day,” he said after receiving a hug from Chip Ganassi. “I recovered some points for the championship.”

The relentless kicks, spins and crashes only allowed 13 of the 26 riders to reach the finish. Behind Palou, two drivers who weren’t expecting to be there took fourth and fifth as Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta overcame an encounter with the wall (Herta) on lap 3 and a broken down car (Rossi) on lap 8 which left both drivers one lap behind just minutes into the competition.

Quick repairs and clever use of precautions to come loose, coupled with aggressive driving, saved Andretti’s day after frontline starter Romain Grosjean found himself in the wall in a clash with Josef Newgarden and Devlin DeFrancesco has drawn the ire of Takuma Sato after an illness. – a fatal overtaking attempt put the two drivers in the wall.

“This place is pretty wild,” Rossi said. “I think it’s as good as a win. A big thank you to the team for hanging on. »

“I’m happy with the way we came back, not only starting at the back, but also having a lap down at some point, which doesn’t happen too often,” said Herta, who has congratulated his team in the pits for gaining many positions for the #26 Honda of the day.

A chippy Newgarden, who wasn’t interested in hearing Grosjean’s side of the story, rounded out the top six. After the Penske driver, remarkable performances were recorded as Felix Rosenqvist charged from 15th to 7th as Arrow McLaren SP teammate Pato O’Ward was hit from behind by Graham Rahal and lost the training following contact. He fell 24th.

Rahal, for his part, was involved in three crashes, including one while trying to pit after crashing into the back of O’Ward. He would finish 23rd.

Adding to the fun, Rahal’s kick to the back of O’Ward also drove O’Ward into the back of Championship leader Will Power who came out lighter than O’Ward but suffered from changeover issues of speed from the 26th lap and lost time with each shift. He would save the 11th.

Rahal’s rookie teammate Christian Lundgaard was a rocket ship for most of the afternoon, but dropped to eighth in the two-lap sprint to the finish; he came away second behind Dixon.

The gearbox knocking issues didn’t stop with Power and O’Ward. What appeared to be a relatively minor knock from behind by Herta lost Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson in the top 10. He lost the drive, was restarted and lost the drive again finishing 14th, the last car out of the race.

Jimmie Johnson wrecked himself. David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood were on pace for their best IndyCar finishes but slipped away from seventh and eighth place respectively. Callum Ilott had a puncture and crashed into Rossi. Rahal nosed into the wall and Rinus VeeKay couldn’t avoid running into him. The heavy traffic jam that injured Power, O’Ward and Rahal also ended the days of Dalton Kellett and Simona De Silvestro.

In that jam, Dixon was sent flying a short distance as he was lifted from behind – where his lasting damage occurred. Helio Castroneves spun and stalled leaving the pits. Simon Pagenaud hit the back of Palou’s car. There must have been 50 other incidents that left the nose, fenders, sidepods, floors, wheels and tires in poor condition.

46% of the race was behind the race car, compared to 43% in 2021. Last year, 30% of the field did not finish; this year it has reached a staggering 50%. The only area of ​​improvement came in warnings – down from nine to eight – and penalties, also down from nine to eight.

The series now moves on to the Bomarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway on August 20.

RESULTS

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