(LONG BEACH, CA) – Scott Dixon, who entered the weekend with just one top-five finish in eight Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starts, won the 41st edition of the historic street race by 2.2 seconds over Verizon P1 Award winner Helio Castroneves.
Dixon’s victory was his 36th overall, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. Al Unser is fourth with 39 victories.
When Dixon beat Castroneves off pit lane on the first service stop on Lap 29 to take the lead, he wasn’t to be denied in a race that had only one caution flag during its 80 laps.
During the crucial pit stop, Castroneves was held in his pit box by chief mechanic Travis Law to avoid contact with the incoming Tony Kanaan. The extra second was critical.
And though the crew of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet had a blazing second and final stop on Lap 55, Dixon was six-tenths of a second ahead of Castroneves on his out lap entering Turn 1.
“This is huge,” Dixon said. “I love the event, but as far as coming here and doing well it hadn’t been on that list. That pit stop exchange definitely helped us get to the lead but the car was fast and all we had to do was maintain that lead.”
Castroneves forged his second consecutive runner-up finish and 37th of his career to tie Bobby Rahal for second on the all-time list. He closed to three points of Team Penske teammate and championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park for the April 26 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Montoya, who won in season opener at St. Petersburg, placed third in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud finished fourth in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet and Kanaan also earned his second top-five finish of the young season.
“Long Beach is never an easy place to win and Scott Dixon did a great job today and so did his pit crew to get him out front,” said Unser, who four days earlier was honoured in Long Beach by the Road Racing Drivers Club. “Racing is a team effort and both Scott and his crew earned the win, my congratulations to them.”
Canadian James Hinchcliffe, winner of the previous race in Avondale, LA, qualified 13th and finished Long Beach just one position higher in 12th.
“We ran our race and did what we could. We got a couple guys on the first round and lost one or two of those in the second,” Hinchcliffe said. “It would’ve been interesting to see if we could’ve taken the fight to Graham [Rahal], [Sebastian] Saavedra, and Carlos [Munoz] but we kept our nose clean. In an all-green race, there’s only so much you can do. Now we regroup and go to Barber.”