RACING

Dixon tames Wild Nashville for 53rd win

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On lap 29 of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, Scott Dixon was running last after an emergency service penalty from his injured car in a closed pit.

Fast forward 51 laps, and Dixon was celebrating his 53rd career INDYCAR SERIES win — breaking a tie with Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list — in an unlikely triumph on the streets of Nashville on Sunday.

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Dixon took his second win of the season in PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s #9 Honda and closed within six points of NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship leader Will Power with just three races to go. Dixon is trying to match the series record of seven titles held by AJ Foyt, who also leads with 67 career wins.

SEE: Race results | Race Highlights

“Congratulations to the team,” Dixon said. “We had a big crash there that took half the floor of the car off. We had to do four front wing wraps so we had zero grip. Nashville is so awesome.

Scott McLaughlin was second to the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet, just 0.1067 seconds behind Dixon after a two-lap chase for the checkered flag after a late red flag. It was the closest margin of victory this season on a street or road course and the fourth closest finish on those circuits in INDYCAR SERIES history.

Defending series champion Alex Palou finished third in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, with the left front fender mainplane flapping over the bumps after contact earlier in the race.

Alexander Rossi rallied on several instances of contact during the race that saw him drop a lap to finish fourth in the #27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. His Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta also recovered from early contact and lapped up to finish an unlikely fifth in the no26 Gainbridge Honda.

The furious finish after 80 laps of racing in full contact and without prisoners created a points race closer than piano wire with three races remaining. Just 33 points separate the top five in the standings, with a minimum of 51 points available for a race winner.

2014 series champion Power, who finished 11th in his damaged No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, leads Dixon by six points. 2022 Indianapolis 500 fielded by Gainbridge winner Marcus Ericsson, who finished 14th in the No. 8 Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Huski, is 12 points behind Power in third.

Nashville-area native Josef Newgarden, who finished sixth on the PPG’s No. 2 Penske Chevrolet team, is 22 points behind Power in fourth. And Palou is holding firm in her bid for a second straight title, 33 points behind Power in fifth.

It was a second year in a row of mayhem, dice rolling and a winner in Victory Lane that hardly anyone saw coming after 80 laps of racing on the bumpy, tight, 11-turn, 2.1 temporary street circuit miles which includes two trips per turn over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Cumberland River.

The two-lap dash for the checkerboard was created on Lap 76 when Newgarden and Romain Grosjean in the #28 Honda DHL made contact at Turn 9 on a restart as Newgarden moved up the field, with Grosjean finding himself in the tire barrier.

Race officials decided to raise the red flag on Lap 77 so the eventful race, which also included eight caution periods, could end with another thrilling spectacle.

Dixon and NTT P1 Award winner McLaughlin had similar amounts of push-to-passes remaining for the reboot, so it would come down to a two-round duel of who blinked first. Neither made it in a masterful display of driving skill, but Dixon timed the restart perfectly and pulled a small gap over McLaughlin.

As the two New Zealand drivers roamed the circuit for the last time, McLaughlin was not close enough to Dixon to overtake him on the bridge. Dixon staggered slightly on the final corner before the checkered flag, but McLaughlin couldn’t squeeze through.

“We were worried about him because I knew he would take risks,” Dixon said of McLaughlin. “It kind of has to do with the rankings right now. He was super fast too. It also had new tires. I was a sitting duck. If there had been a lap or two more, it would have been really difficult to do.”

McLaughlin said: “We were next to there at the finish line. But man, we were 16th in that last pit swap and had a great restart and then the car was fast. Just fell short at the end. Congratulations to Scotty. I’ve always dreamed of racing him to the finish. It was a real duel.

Palou wasn’t far off at the finish either, finishing just 0.6100 seconds behind Dixon. In fact, the top four cars all finished in less than a second, as Rossi was only 0.9412 seconds behind the winner.

Dixon, who started 14th, was picked up in a chain reaction incident on lap 26 that damaged his floor and required emergency service in a closed pit on lap 27, and he was sentenced to the back of the running order as a penalty. Dixon made his final pitstop under green on Lap 51 and took a break a lap later when the #21 Bitcoin Race Team with Rinus VeeKay’s BitNile Chevrolet and Graham Rahal’s #15 United Rentals Honda made contact in Turn 4 and initiated a caution period.

The top 10 cars in the field stopped during this caution, which helped Dixon ride to the front of the field. Dixon took the lead for the first time – and for good – when Newgarden made his final pitstop on lap 66.

Dixon won $10,000 from the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge for the victory, to be shared between his team and his charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES event is the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Saturday August 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Live coverage on the USA Network and INDYCAR Radio Network of the final oval race of the season begins at 6 p.m. ET.

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