Story By: ZACH HORRALL / INDYCAR – MADISON, IL – NTT IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon continued his winning ways in 2020 by holding off a hard-charging Takuma Sato in thrilling fashion, winning the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 1 at World Wide Technology Raceway on Saturday, Aug. 29 in the second-closest INDYCAR finish ever at the track.
Dixon, who started third, drove the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to his 50th career win and fourth win in eight races this season with a .1404 margin of victory over Sato in the No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda. That result turned the tables from the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge last Sunday, when Sato held off Dixon for his second victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
“It’s awesome,” Dixon said. “I can’t thank the PNC Bank crew enough. Superb race all day. Sato was going to be strong at the end, but I didn’t realize how strong he was coming. We were kind of going into a reserve mode, looking after the engine, and he was there with a head of steam. Just so happy for this team. Last week at Indianapolis was a bit of a bummer. So, it was nice to get a win.”
Dixon averaged 143.522 mph after starting third. Rounding out the top five behind Dixon and Sato were Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, Colton Herta in the No. 88 Capstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda and Marcus Ericsson in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
During the final round of pit stops on Lap 163, Dixon pitted from second, directly behind leader O’Ward, and beat O’Ward off pit road.
Dixon expanded his lead over O’Ward as the rest of the leaders cycled through green flag pit stops. Sato pitted from the lead with 25 laps to go as he attempted to overcut the leaders by staying out later than the rest of the field, handing the lead to Dixon for good on Lap 176. On that final stop, Sato was slowed slightly by a sluggish tire change.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for Dixon. Sato, the defending winner at WWTR, merged back onto the 1.25-mile oval in third and started charging in his “no attack, no chance” style. Sato made a daring, outside pass of O’Ward for second in Turn 1 with 16 laps to go as he chased down Dixon.
Sato quickly caught the “Ice Man,” with the gap to the bright orange-and-blue machine getting as low as three tenths of a second in the closing laps. But Sato was unable to challenge Dixon for the top spot..
“Obviously, the team did a fantastic job,” Sato said. “From last week, we carried a lot of momentum. We lost some places at the beginning of the race. I wasn’t entirely comfortable in the car. But we were strong. Big congrats to Ganassi and (Scott) Dixon. Fantastic win. My ABeam car was phenomenal.”
Dixon remains third on the all-time wins list, but his 50th win closed the gap to second place Mario Andretti, who has 52 wins. A.J. Foyt is first with 67 wins.
“Fifty – that sounds awesome,” Dixon said. “We’ve got to keep on truckin’ and get a few more. But I can’t thank Honda and HPD enough. I’m proud to be powered by them and what they’ve done, especially this year, is just phenomenal, and how quick their cars have been.”
Dixon padded his championship lead to 117 points over reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, who finished 12th in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
The race started with an incident that damaged multiple cars.
As Power led the field to the green flag in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, the field bunched up behind him, resulting in a multi-car wreck just before the start-finish line.
Rookie Alex Palou in the No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda and 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet jumped out of line to avoid hitting the cars in front of them, resulting in a major pile-up.
Rookie Oliver Askew, driving the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, hit Pagenaud from behind and turned him into 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda. The wreck also involved Marco Andretti in the No. 98 Oberto Specialty Meats / Circle K Honda, Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 United States Air Force Chevrolet and Zach Veach in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Palou, whose car wasn’t damaged, and Askew received penalties for the incident.
Once the race went green on Lap 13, Power held the lead until a round of green flag pit stops on Lap 62, handing the lead to Dixon for the first time. 2020 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year O’Ward beat Dixon off pit road and led the race from Lap 68 through Lap 161.
Dixon will look to sweep the weekend at WWTR on Sunday with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Race 2 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Qualifying for tomorrow’s race was held Saturday, and second-place finisher Sato will lead the field to green alongside Newgarden. Dixon will roll off the grid sixth.