|Bill Patterson paints a victory portrait of Scott Dixon in Victory Lane following his win in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway, Image Credit: Richard Dowdy - VICS|
Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Debrief
Qualifications - Smashing and setting a record - Previous record of 183.599 at PIR held by Arie Luyendyk (March 23, 1996).
Helio Castroneves, the 40-year-old Brazilian shattered the track record - set 20 years ago by Arie Luyendyk (183.599 mph) - by touring the historic one-mile oval in a stunning two-lap average of 192.324 mph to win the pole in his REV Group Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet.
Helio becomes the first driver to officially lap any one-mile oval faster than 190 mph - this would actually be a World Record mark as in a Guinness Book type of World Record.
Chevy vs Honda results post Quals. (revisited later as a post race review) - Chevy had all top 10 positions on the grid.
At Race tire failures - First, Helio Castroneves, after leading out strongly, has a tire go down – Lap 40 - and it is diagnosed as a cut tire (outside front right - inside breach).
Second, also from the lead with as many laps on the tires as Helio, Juan Pablo Montoya's tire goes down – Lap 96 - it is the same tire position (outside front right - inside breach). The report on this one, however similar, is insisted to be from a different cause. Little explanation beyond this was given but the announcers speculated that since both cars were from Team Penske, that the camber may have been a bit over adjusted causing this tire failure to happen.
Chopping while driving - Charlie Kimball, and Tony Kanaan seemed bent on "protecting" their line with semi-aggressive squeeze downs to the line ... some without any on-track penalty. Kimball pays with a spin on Lap 134 but Newgarden suffers.
Restarts and Honda (RHR and Rahal):
• Outstanding start, re-starts highlight Hunter-Reay’s run - A likely top-three finish for Hunter-Reay was stymied by caution flags that twice waved just after he had completed scheduled pit stops, dropping him well back in the field each time as his competitors took advantage of the yellows to make their own stops. The poorly-timed cautions negated an aggressive race start for Hunter-Reay that saw the Andretti Autosport driver gain five positions in the opening lap. Hunter-Reay continued to fight back throughout the 250-lap contest, making multiple passes for position on each succeeding re-start and surviving a late-race brush with the wall to finish 10th.
• Rahal makes largest gain of the night to finish fifth - Rahal also had a strong race start and climbed through the field during the first half of the race, moving from 19th on the starting grid to sixth by the race’s Lap 125 mid-point. Rahal was able to both conserve fuel and maintain position through the remainder of the contest to net a fifth-place finish.
• Ill-timed caution flags cost Hunter-Reay, Andretti and Rossi - Two other Andretti Autosport drivers, Marco Andretti and rookie Alexander Rossi, also had likely top-10 finishes taken away by the same caution flags that hindered Hunter-Reay. Andretti dropped off the lead lap as a result of the second caution on Lap 120, to finish 13th, while Rossi was forced to make a stop for a cut tire while the pits were closed during a Lap 197 caution, resulting in a drive-through penalty and 14th-place finish.
|Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan enter Turn 3 during the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway. Image Credit: Chris Owens - VICS|
At end - Debris and Yellow Flags ... not! Ryan Hunter-Reay brushes the wall and leaves carbon-fiber on the front stretch on Lap 240 ... 10 laps from the end-of-race. Yellow Flag finally flown on Lap 248 as Alexander Rossi brushes the wall - Race ends on a Yellow White / Yellow Checkered Flag.
Bravo to Scott Dixon for his 39 Win and first-time win at Phoenix International Raceway. His win ties him for 4th on the all-time American Open Wheel win list with Al Unser. Next target on the list is Michael Andretti at 42 wins. When Dixon was at 38 wins, he had 19 Oval and 19 Street/Road course ... going into Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ... he is going to have to win to balance this all up again!
Chevy vs Honda results post Race - Graham Rahal wasn’t able to reach the podium but did break into the top 5 with a P5. No Honda engine cars led any laps and only two drivers were able to break into the top 10 at race end - Rahal P5 and RHR P10. Only 4 Honda cars were able to finish the race on the lead lap. In 2016 and 2 races, Honda cars have been in front of the field for 18 of the 360 laps competed.
Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan Sperber said he was on "cloud 9" after Saturday night's intense 250-lap Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix that attracted a crowd estimated just shy of 20,000.
It was successful enough to all-but ensure the series will be back at the Avondale oval in 2017, but likely will drop to late April, possibly Saturday night, April 29. That's because the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four will be at University of Phoenix Stadium early in the month, and Easter next year is April 16.
|The podium of Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power following the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway. Image Credit: Chris Owens - VICS|
DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY PHOENIX GRAND PRIX POST-RACE NOTES:
• Dixon has won an Indy car race in 12 consecutive seasons. It is a Indy car record.
• This is the 101st Indy car victory for cars owned by Chip Ganassi. It is the first-ever win for Chip Ganassi Racing at Phoenix International Raceway across all series that race here.
• Simon Pagenaud finished second. It is his 14th career podium finish and second-consecutive second-place finish. Pagenaud leads the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings for the first time in his career.
• Will Power finished third in his first start of the season.
• Tony Kanaan finished fourth, his fourth top-five finish in as many starts at PIR.
• Graham Rahal finished fifth, his season-best finish.
DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY PHOENIX GRAND PRIX POST-RACE QUICK QUOTE:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “The biggest thing was just maintaining and trying to keep pace with whoever was in front and behind us and trying to figure out what we needed to make the car better. We tried to put ourselves in position to be there in the end. I can’t give enough credit to Team Target. They did amazing job. The pit stops were flawless and the strategy let us stretch out the fuel when we needed to and we were able to put some good cars a lap down early on. It was a good race and a good start for a return to Phoenix.”
About tying Al Unser for fourth on the all-time wins list: “It’s mind-boggling. I love doing what I do. I just feel privileged and lucky to one be driving in INDYCAR and two for a team like Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s amazing to be part of this team.”
UNOFFICIAL VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES POINT STANDINGS
1. Simon Pagenaud 83
2. Scott Dixon 79
3. Juan Pablo Montoya 74
4. Ryan Hunter-Reay 56
5. Tony Kanaan 54
6. Helio Castroneves 53
7. Graham Rahal 44
8. Mikhail Aleshin 43
9. Takuma Sato 42
10. Max Chilton (R) 39
UNOFFICIAL SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR POINT STANDINGS
1. Max Chilton 39
2. Alexander Rossi 34
3. Conor Daly 32
4. Spencer Pigot 16
NEXT UP: The majority of the series will participate in a test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday, April 6.
Round 3 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season will be the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 15-17.
... notes from The EDJE
TAGS: Verizon IndyCar Series, Phoenix International Raceway, Scott Dixon, Target, Chip Ganassi Racing, TCGR, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, The EDJE, Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix