Winning an IndyCar race is nothing new for Scott Dixon, particularly this year.
But getting to celebrate as fans cheered him on for the first time all year made his victory at Road America in Wisconsin particularly sweet.
"To see fans and hear fans cheering again was definitely a lot of fun," the 39-year-old New Zealander said after winning the opening race of a weekend double-header.
This marked the third IndyCar event of this pandemic-delayed season — Dixon has won all three — and the first to admit fans. Spectators hadn't been permitted for Dixon's previous victories in Fort Worth and Indianapolis.
Those fans got the opportunity to watch Dixon's most improbable triumph of the year.
Dixon was a season-low ninth in qualifying and well off the lead pack for the first half of the race but he took the lead for good shortly after a caution flag and beat Will Power by 2.5386 seconds. They were followed in order by Alex Palou, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta.
"It was very unexpected," said Dixon, a five-time season champion for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Dixon is the first IndyCar driver to start a season with at least three consecutive victories since Sebastien Bourdais reeled off four straight to start the 2006 campaign. The only other drivers to open an IndyCar season with at least three straight victories are AJ Foyt (seven in 1964) and Al Unser (three in 1971). Dixon is the first driver to win three straight races at any point of the season since Simon Pagenaud in 2016.
Power had a narrow lead over Dixon when Jack Harvey went off the track to produce a caution flag on the 38th lap. Dixon pulled ahead of Power coming out of the pits on the restart and stayed ahead after two more caution flags.
"Mishap in the pits, had a bit of an issue," Power said. "Had a wrong gear in the car, too, making it difficult to get a good restart to challenge Dixon."
Dixon has 49 career victories, putting him behind only Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52).
The second race of the doubleheader gets under way at 4am tomorrow.