By Matthew Hansen for Driven
Five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon has completed an epic rebound after Saturday's DNF to win the closing NTT IndyCar Series race at Belle Isle in Detroit; leading home rookie Eric Ericsson and Australian Will Power.
It's the New Zealander's first race win of the season, and comes in a race where many of his biggest championship contenders were involved in crashes. It doubles as Dixon's 45th career IndyCar Series race win.
He now sits fourth in the standings, having passed Takuma Sato. The series lead is still with Josef Newgarden, but only by 15 points from Alexander Rossi.
Dixon started deep in the field, but was among those to benefit from a string of attrition among his competitors. Three different stunning crashes all helped the Kiwi (including a lap one, turn three pile-up), but none of them more so than a stunning incident on lap 34.
The crash concerned series leader Newgarden, his lead rival Rossi, and a hungry James Hinchcliffe. The latter had just emerged from pit-lane; forced to immediately defend from the other two. Inevitably, the trio went three wide into the sharp turn three right-hander, and neither Newgarden nor Rossi were in control for the corner.
The result? All three cars piled into the tyre wall, with Rossi lucky to escape with little damage. Newgarden initially looked to be an instant DNF, later admitting that much of the crash was his fault before eventually rejoining the race 21-laps down.
This handed first place to Dixon, who led Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti. And, following the final wave of pit stops, Dixon was able to retain that lead. Ericsson still held second, with short-stopper Ed Jones taking a risk on fuel economy in third.
The big battle to watch was the one for fourth. Exiting pit lane, Will Power blocked Sato for the slot. This put the Japanese driver off kilter with the chasing pack, and over the next three corners, he lost subsequent positions to Hunter-Reay and Rossi. Soon, that battle for fourth became the fight for third, as they all one-by-one got around the fuel-saving Jones.
IndyCar officials elected to red flag the race to preserve the chance of a finish under green.
Then, a late caution threw it all up in the air. Prompted by the "dead" car of Hinchcliffe, it ensured a 10-lap shootout to the finish, and it brought the fast Power and Rossi right up into the battle for first.
Dixon's response was to immediately pump out an enormous two-second lead, aided no doubt by having more overtake boosts left in his arsenal than anyone else in the top 10. Surprisingly, Ericsson too had gapped Power. It looked like the race was over, but a crash at turn one for Dixon's teammate Felix Rosenqvist at turn one meant one last safety car.
But, Dixon (and Ericsson) were both awake to any threats of a grandstand finish; both of them driving away from the chasing pack to eventually take and second comfortably; Power, Hunter-Reay, and Rossi completing the top five.
Dixon's victory comes after he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to motorsport in the Queen's Birthday honours on Monday.