Scott Dixon reached another milestone in his distinguished Indy Car career as he tied Mario Andretti for the second on the list of all-time Indy Car wins with victory in today’s Honda Indy Toronto.
The six-time series champion took the lead at the first round of pit stops, and despite Colton Herta’s attacks later on, in the race, Dixon prevailed to take his fourth win on the streets of Toronto.
Although the sun failed to appear for race day, the 25 starters would be in for a hard 85 laps on the streets of Toronto, with ambient temperatures hitting 26 degrees before the start of the race.
Herta’s superb week continued as he snatched his second pole position of the season right at the session’s end, with Dixon second ahead of Josef Newgarden.
Alex Rossi started fourth ahead of the impressive David Malukas, who was continuing to shine for Dale Coyne Racing with Scott McLaughlin sixth as he looked to make up ground in the championship race with a good result on his first visit to Toronto.
Callum Ilott overcame a Practice crash to start a superb seventh ahead of Swedish duo Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, whilst Ilott’s former Formula 2 rival Christian Lundgaard continued to showcase his growing confidence with tenth on the grid.
Row eight featured Pato O’Ward and Will Power after yellow flags caught out the latter in the final minutes of Qualifying, whilst Alex Palou’s weekend from hell continued to worsen as he could only manage 22nd on the grid courtesy of an engine problem in Qualifying.
19 of the 25 starters would use Alternates for the opening stint of the race, whilst Graham Rahal, O’Ward, Takuma Sato, Rinus Veekay, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Kirkwood gambled on the primaries.
When the green flag dropped, pole sitter Herta timed his start perfectly and led the field through Turn one with Dixon covering the hard-charging Newgarden, who suddenly was under attack from Rossi. Further, back Sato toured into retirement after making contact with Palou and O’Ward on the exit of the first corner.
After a short caution to clean up the track, the race got back underway on Lap five, with Rosenqvist immediately making hay at the restart as he breezed past Malukas for sixth meanwhile, Rossi was demoted back to third after Newgarden breezed past on the run down to Turn three.
First to stop was Palou on Lap 10, changing to the primaries and dropping him to the back of the field with Malukas, Ilott, Simon Pagenaud and the hard-charging Power all stopping early.
Devlin DeFrancesco and Jack Harvey pitted on Lap 15, with the Brit losing a number of seconds after being boxed in by Sato’s damaged car.
Ericsson and Romain Grosjean stopped soon after, with Grosjean jumping Power, much to the Australian’s frustration.
Dixon came in from second on Lap 18, rejoining in front of Newgarden in tenth whilst Lundgaard also pitted.
Race leader Herta was next in for primaries on Lap 19, but the Californian lost the net race lead as he lost several seconds being held in his pit box with McLaughlin pitting the same lap. However, Herta’s loss was Dixon’s gain, who pounced into Turn one snatching the net race lead with his tyres now up to temperature.
Rosenqvist’s one-lap stint in the lead ended when he finally stopped on Lap 20, with McLaren’s strategy working a treat as he managed to jump McLaughlin into net race fourth.
Ilott’s day quickly unravelled as a broken front wing forced him back into the pits for repairs after locking up into Turn four and shuffling him back to last.
With the leaders now all stuck in traffic, Rahal held the lead before he duly pitted on Lap 26, slotting back out behind Ericsson, although he quickly lost 13th to Pagenaud on fresher tyres.
That put Veekay and O’Ward out in front, but the Dutchman couldn’t hold Veekay for long as the hard-charging Arrow McLaren driver took the lead on the approach to Turn three. Veekay finally stopped on Lap 32, rejoining behind Power as further up the track, Dalton Kellett’s engine exploded at Turn nine, ending his home race on a whimper.
O’Ward’s brief stint in the lead came to a close on Lap 33 when he finally stopped for tyres handing the lead back to Dixon as the Arrow McLaren SP team got the Mexican back out behind Grosjean, getting past the Frenchman on Lap 36.
At half distance, Dixon led Herta by over two seconds, with Newgarden a distant third ahead of Rossi, who was under pressure from Rosenqvist.
The battle ended in tears when Rosenqvist got too aggressive and made contact with Rossi shoving him into the barrier on the exit of Turn four and bringing out the second caution of the day with nearly all of the field taking advantage of the yellow to make their second stop.
Dixon’s crew didn’t crack under pressure, and they got their man out in front of Herta with Rosenqvist, the big gainer, as he jumped up to third, whilst Newgarden had a nightmare stop and dropped to 10th. Meanwhile, Grosjean’s frustrating race took another turn for the worse as he was sent to the back of the field for a pitlane speed violation.
Veekay led the field over the line to begin the resumption of racing on Lap 50, with the pair deciding to stay out as they gambled on another yellow coming out.
The gamble paid off as the track began to break up with thirty laps, bringing out the third caution of the day. Daly, Grosjean and Kirkwood used the short caution to make a free pitstop.
But racing resumed only for one lap as Kirkwood and Johnson made contact into Turn 11, putting both drivers out and stranding both cars in the middle of the circuit. Nevertheless, with the safety car’s pace now reduced to a crawl because of the two wrecked cars, Veekay managed to move himself up to 13th after making his second and final stop giving the Dutchman fresh tyres and a full tank of fuel when the race restarted on Lap 67. Rahal then made a brave move on McLaughlin on the inside of Turn one moving the American into fourth whilst the Kiwi fell to ninth after running over the marbles.
In the latter stages of the race, Herta had to save fuel putting him under pressure from Rosenqvist and, as a result, Dixon’s first win of the season and the 52nd of his career, tieing him with Andretti for joint second on the list of all-time Indy Car winners.
Herta clung on to second with Rosenqvist third ahead of the hard-charging Rahal, who drove a superb race from 14th on the grid.
Ericsson extended his championship lead after holding off Palou for fifth, with Pagenaud coming home an excellent seventh after starting 18th on the grid. Lundgaard finished best of the rookies in eighth whilst McLaughlin led home Newgarden after a disappointing afternoon for Team Penske.
In the post-race press conference that Motorlat attended, Dixon paid tribute to everyone who helped him reach the highest peaks of the Indy Car mountain. The Kiwi was also touched by Andretti’s tribute.
“It means a lot. I love Mario for so many reasons, what he’s achieved in the sport, what’s he given back to the sport, and I keep saying I feel extremely lucky to have the likes of himself and AJ here at most weekends. To even be mentioned in the same conversations as these greats I never thought was possible, so it’s a huge credit to the team I work with but also to the team I started with, whether that was my mum and dad, my brothers and sisters, all my family to the Scott Dixon motorsport group which put forward money for me to get to where I am today.”
“As he stated, it’s a team effort, but those words from Mario mean everything to me.”