Dixon dominates Texas race that should ease IndyCar angst

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Scott Dixon certainly knows how to get to Victory Lane, even if he prefers staying out of the spotlight.

“Scott is a racer. … He is an incredible driver,” said Tony Kanaan, the runner-up in Texas by 7.8 seconds to his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate. “Does he care if people talk about him or not? Not really. He’s going to get that trophy.”

Dixon led 97 of 248 laps for his second win this season and the 37th of his career, fifth on the IndyCar Series list. It was the fastest race ever on the high-banked, 1 1/2-mile Texas track, with an average speed of 191.94 mph for the No. 9 Chevrolet on a day with only one caution for debris.

“If you ask any driver that races against Scott, they’re going to respect him a lot,” Kanaan said. “That’s the biggest thing in racing.”

Sharing the podium after Saturday night’s race with third-place finisher Helio Castroneves, Kanaan joked that “me and Helio like to be famous.” His fellow Brazilian and “Dancing With the Stars” champion quickly agreed.

IndyCar races the streets of Toronto next weekend, but the series will be able to go California at the end of the month with much less angst about how the cars will perform on the 2-mile superspeedway with the new aero kits.

There were no crashes and no spins at the high-speed Texas track.

Texas was also the debut of closure panels on rear wheel guards on all cars after three Chevrolets went airborne during practice for the Indianapolis 500. Those panels, also mandated for California and Pocono, are designed to eliminate lift when an Indy car is traveling backward at a high rate of speed during an accident.

They were never put to a real test in Texas, and Dixon strategist Mike Hull said they had no effect on the race. He called them a success since “we really didn’t have anything against the fence.”

This is the 10th season in a row with multiple victories for three-time series champion Dixon. But the last time Dixon had two wins so early in a season was 2009.

“We would obviously like to start the season stronger. I would say right now this is one of our better ones,” said Dixon, who didn’t win until at least the 11th race three out of the past four years. “But still a long ways to go.”

Dixon is third in points though nine of 16 races, trailing Team Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power.

Montoya was fourth in Texas, ahead of Marco Andretti, who was in the highest-finishing Honda and the last car on the lead lap.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had the only crash at Texas, in the first practice Friday when his Honda spun and headed backward toward the outside wall. His left rear slammed hard before sliding down the track, but the car never went airborne.

There are plenty of different options for teams with the new aero kits, and there were plenty of different strategies in play Saturday night at Texas, where finding the right mix proved quite a challenge.

Even Dixon, who started ninth, tried to push back against his team’s decision to go with maximum downforce at the start with other cars in front of him going with less.

Dixon said the debate started after the last practice Friday, and that he thought he was getting his way until a text from his engineer about seven hours before the race telling him they were going the opposite direction.

“In hindsight, I’m glad they understood what they were doing,” Dixon said.

Defending race champion Ed Carpenter finished 22nd of 23 drivers and completed only 147 laps, though he was never in contention before mechanical issues.

Power was the Texas polesitter for the third year in a row but led only the first seven laps. He finished 13th, four laps behind Dixon.

“We got a bit blindsided there and chose the wrong downforce level,” Power said. “But I think our problems were deeper than that.”

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