Scott Dixon made his victory in the Firestone 600 look easy, though the three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion said it was one of the most hotly-contested and unpredictable in recent memory at Texas Motor Speedway.
Dixon led 97 of the 248 laps in the No. 9 Energizer EcoAdvanced Chevrolet to earn his second victory of the Verizon IndyCar Series season and his second at Texas Motor Speedway in the fast-paced race on the 1.455-mile, high-banked oval.
The 191.940 mph average speed set a track race record, aided by a lone caution for debris.
Chip Ganassi Racing Teams teammate Tony Kanaan finished 7.8000 seconds behind in the No. 10 NTT Group Chevrolet. Helio Castroneves, who has won four times at TMS, finished third in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet.
It was the 99th Indy car victory for team owner Chip Ganassi, and Dixon, his longest-tenured driver, picked up his 37th Indy car win - fifth on the all-time list. Dixon, who also won at Long Beach in mid-April, stretched his streak to 10 years with multiple wins.
"It's never easy. Even toward the second-to-last stint we were just trying to make changes to the car," said Dixon, who grabbed the lead in a pit-stop exchange on Lap 194 and led all but one lap the rest of the way.
"It didn't start awfully good because we had a lot of understeer in the car, but once we got the balance right, the car was basically on rails. With the pit-stop exchange we got the lead, and then the car was just very good in traffic and were able to keep the speed up. I knew, once we got the balance right, we could get up there and duel with (Kanaan) to the end.
"This racing is great and you've got to give Firestone a lot of credit. They give us a tire that is very durable and safe."
Dixon also won at the superspeedway on June 7, 2008 - one of six victories on the way to his second Verizon IndyCar Series championship. He is third in the 2015 standings through nine of 16 races - 43 points behind front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya heading to the June 14 Honda Indy Toronto, where he swept a doubleheader on the street circuit in 2013.
Kanaan, who earned his 121st Indy car top-five finish, led 57 laps mid-race. Overall, there were 14 lead changes among nine drivers.
"One-two for the team, I'm happy," said Kanaan, who won at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12, 2004, and returned that October to celebrate his only series championship. "It was a great race."
With a fourth-place finish, Montoya increased his points advantage to 35 over Team Penske teammate Will Power. Marco Andretti, who started 11th in the No. 27 Snapple Honda for Andretti Autosport, placed fifth for his third consecutive top five. Power, the pole sitter, led seven laps but faded to 13th in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Hinchcliffe Issues Start Command
Injured Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe gave the pre-race command for drivers to start their engines via video on Texas Motor Speedway's "Big Hoss" 20,633-square-foot HD display screen along the track's backstretch.
Carter Brothers on the Spot for Andretti Autosport
It was a busy few days in Texas for two members of the Andretti Autosport team, and a winning one. Brothers Cole and Dane Carter serve as spotters for Andretti drivers in both the Verizon IndyCar Series and in rallycross, and both were competing in the Lone Star State this weekend.
That meant the Carters were shuttling between Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 and Austin for the X Games. Dane spots for Marco Andretti on Verizon IndyCar Series oval tracks and Tanner Foust in rallycross events. Cole spots for Carlos Munoz in Indy cars and Scott Speed in rallycross. Andretti and Munoz finished fifth and sixth, respectively, at TMS a few hours after Speed took home the gold medal for winning the X Games rallycross competition.
"A lot of people don't think spotters are ever used or needed in rallycross, but they're required," said Cole, 32 and the younger of the two Carters. "It doesn't seem like it because the guys always seem to run into each other. They're a lot more involved, actually. It's kind of like you have to do the race strategy and the spotting all at once because things happen so fast and it's a short race."
After flying to Fort Worth from Indianapolis on Thursday, the Carters made the 200-mile drive to Austin for a three-hour rallycross practice session and returned that night to be at TMS for Firestone 600 practice and qualifying Friday. They went back to Austin late Friday night for the X Games heat races and final today, then scurried back to TMS in time for the Firestone 600.
Cole and Dane both raced for years primarily in sprint cars and midgets. They are the sons of 17-time Indianapolis 500 starter and 1985 pole sitter Duane "Pancho" Carter, a longtime spotter working this weekend for Tristan Vautier in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
"It's easy to be a spotter if you were a driver," said Dane, 36. "Former drivers, a lot of times they know what drivers want to hear, what they don't want to hear. Sometimes you get people (spotting) that will just talk too much. They say spotters talk a lot, but with Marco, there's very little we talk about. It's just short and concise, just what he needs to hear."
Football Great Haley Prefers to Take It Slow
Charles Haley, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August and was honorary starter for the Firestone 600, was invited to take his 1968 Ford Mustang convertible out for a few laps on the 1.455-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway oval. He politely declined.
"That's my girlfriend; we keep it real slow. Nothing over 45 (mph)," said Haley, who won a record five Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
The former defensive end/linebacker does appreciate the speed of the Verizon IndyCar Series cars and the mental fortitude of the competitors.
"You have to be a little nuts to drive," he said, "but it's very exciting to watch on TV and now to see it in person."
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was tough day for the Verizon Chevy Team. We got a bit blindsided there and chose the wrong downforce level for tonight but I think our problems were deeper than that. We just need to take a good look at what we missed. We'll go back and look towards better results in Toronto."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske): "Our Verizon Chevy was really quick. We came out of the pits there leading and we made a mistake with the front wing. I asked to take wing out and they went the wrong way. I started leading when I was full stiff bars and full on the weight jacker, and it was still really pointy and I said, 'This is going to get really loose,' so I just backed off and let a few people by and it just started wearing the right rear tire. By the time I stopped (again), I lost half a lap. You saw how good I was at the end, how I caught Helio. If that would've been the case (all race), we probably would've won the race, but it is what it is."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): "Mentally, physically it was incredible tonight. One of the toughest ones - especially because we have to control the car, plus at the end with the temperature, the front end of my car was getting a lot nervous. The AAA car was actually strong. We chose in the middle of the downforce (level). We knew that the Ganassis had more downforce than us and in the end they ended up getting the best way. A good day for the championship and points, we're still fourth, but at least we're closer to Juan Pablo (Montoya) and we'll keep going. ... Some of the close calls were incredible. To be honest, I was like, 'Ahhh!' and I closed my eyes. Sometimes it was like, 'That's going to be a close one.' With drivers that you can trust, when you run in the front like that all the time, it's great to run like that. It's fun, it's challenging. But stupid drivers, when they have no idea what they're doing, it's dangerous. I felt safer doing that type of stuff tonight than running 12th or 13th at Indianapolis. Because you know that everybody's going to give an inch, it's small, but they're going to give an inch. Very happy that we were able to finish in the top three."
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I am really happy to finish the race. I was struggling for the first 150 laps and then I started to understand a little more about how the car reacts on ovals and how to take the line and where to apply the throttle in the corners. In the end I started to have fun in the last 50 laps and pass cars. We were going faster and faster as the race went on and I said I wasn't confident at the start of the race, but now I feel a bit more comfortable."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): "It was a really good effort. I was pleased to be able to move our way through the field and it was a lot of fun. I had a really good car and I'm really proud of the effort by the whole Arrow Electronics team, their pit stops are impressive. We were constantly talking throughout the race to make improvements on the balance and we had to work with it a lot but I was really happy. I'm not sure what happened at the end. I was hoping for a top five finish but I think the strategy kind of played out a little bit differently. We dropped a couple of spots right at the end but it was a great effort."
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "We said we wanted to get top tens until the end of the year but honestly, I'm a little bit disappointed with ninth. I felt we had a better car than that and the No. 7 SPM MediaTech Honda was pretty solid. The crew did a great job all night and we just came up a bit short by going off strategy like that. We can still count it as a good finish and add some points. Now we move on to Toronto."
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Lexar Chevrolet): "It was a good race. I'm not thrilled with a 12th-place finish, but I'm also not disappointed. I think the main objective for this race, especially after the last few weekends, was just to complete all the laps and finish the best we could. This is a very difficult track and it was my first time ever racing here, so I didn't know what to expect. Every stint we were pretty loose and I was holding onto the car quite a bit, but it was a very difficult, challenging race. The Chip Ganassi Racing cars were competitive all night and I'm really happy for my teammates with the one-two finish. I made a little mistake and the car got loose which put me above the apron and I ended up getting a drive-through penalty. That put me out of contention for the top-10, but I'm just going to take it as a learning experience and move forward into this weekend in Toronto."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Energizer EcoAdvanced Chevrolet, Race Winner): "A lot of credit goes to the Team Target engineering group for the option that we went with which was on the high downforce level. Another big thanks needs to go to Team Chevy for giving us so many good options to run with and the power they've given us as well. Once we got the balance right and we got some front wing in the car with some tire pressure changes, the car was basically on rails. That allowed us to run up there with TK and really push him along. After that pit stop exchange, we were able to take the lead and the car was just fantastic in traffic. I think that was the key to winning this race. We found out last year that not being able to run well in traffic was a huge disadvantage, so we made sure to correct that for this year. It was just one of those nights where you get towards the end and you just hope that there wasn't going to be any yellows. I knew we had a good car. We just had to get it dialed in. I can't thank the crew enough. This Energizer car, I told you, we had a run with this thing where we would constantly win. I am just over the moon with it, over the moon."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Group Chevrolet): "That was definitely a tough race, but it always is here at Texas Motor Speedway. We saw the setups the Penske guys were running and they saw ours and I think both sides were so different that we were just thinking that someone definitely got it right and someone didn't. We decided to run more downforce and it worked in our favor. It was really close, good racing here tonight and in my opinion at least, I thought it was a lot of fun. You always want to win but I'm so happy for Scott, he ran a really good race. And while a second isn't a win, I'll take those championship points."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut - KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "The Hydroxycut team definitely made progress since last year. The car was actually pretty good. I tried to drive it a little to free and killed the rear tires a couple of times. Then under a yellow, we decided to pit and it was too early, so we didn't beat the pace car out and got penalized. I also made a mistake. I thought it was a drive through penalty and it was a stop and go, so I had to come back in and we went down another lap. Toward the last part of the race we showed we had a good car. The last two stints were strong, but to make up two laps... We got very little out of a pretty good race and a solid race car, but it is what it is, now it is on to the next one."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "After running so well last night, and yesterday in general, this was a shock to us. We're pretty disappointed in the performance; the car was extremely loose. This hurts us in the championship because we lost some ground. We didn't see this yesterday in those conditions even on old tires so it is a shock for sure to see the handling today like we had. It was a bad day but we will work hard to recover from this and be strong in Toronto."
PIPPA MANN (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "Overall I think we had a pretty solid race. We were hoping to have a slightly better car after how well we ran last night in practice. I had a lot of confidence coming in to tonight but we were just that little bit off and that hurt our result some. It is really hard when you can go a few laps longer than everyone else and then you are hanging on when they are just flying around you on brand new tires. I'm really happy to bring the No. 18 car home for a good finish and hopefully this will be the start of a run of good finishes for this car."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "Well I had a great, great start. I passed like five cars in the first few laps. The car felt really good and stable but, unfortunately, halfway through that first stint the rear went really loose and I couldn't keep that pace. I was just hanging on for the rest of that stint. Then we had a couple of issues with the weight jacker and had to reset the car under yellow. I ended up with a mechanical failure. I think we were a bit stronger than we showed but I'm thankful to Dale (Coyne) for having me drive for him again this weekend and thankful to all the guys for their hard work. Too bad we couldn't finish it."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): "We were just riding around, finishing the race when something let go in the car. We were in no way, shape, or form in contention. It's disappointing. We've been strong here for the past couple of years. We have good road course cars right now. We just haven't been able to get this package sorted out for the ovals. A big part of that weight falls on my shoulders. I feel I need to do more to help these guys."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet): "An up and down night for sure for the Avaya Chevrolet team. The car was really good out front with the downforce setup we had on the car. Unfortunately we had an electrical issue with our weigh jacker, which through the balance of the car off until we got a chance to reset the system under the second caution. But when we did that the engine shut down all the way into the pit stall and we lost several spots. An unfortunate situation for sure, but the guys continued to work on the car to make it better, but with our downforce setup it was just not the best in traffic. Now we go to Toronto - which is a place that I love - to try to get this team to Victory Lane."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): "I think I gave 100 percent, everything I could. We needed to save a little bit more fuel than the other guys. We did one less pit stop. It was hard to save fuel, so we lost some positions there. We finished sixth - a great position, and I think I did quite good with our stops and pushing hard. It was good for experience, another top 10, and now we're looking forward to Toronto."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "We were sort of just hanging on to it tonight. Seemingly lacking a bit of grip and pace to the front runners, so we had to get the top five the way we did it. It was an awesome job by my Snapple guys. We just need to keep hanging in there, that's all we can do."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Unfortunately, I think there's something wrong with this car - it's the same one we had at Indy - and we're going to 'kitchen sink it' as they call it, for the next oval race. We're just going to come back with a different tub, a different everything because it's not this difficult. There's no excuse for this... I'm just glad I brought it back in one piece - it was loose the whole night no matter what we did to it. Meanwhile, my teammates (Marco Andretti, Carlos Muñoz) were adding front wing the whole night trying to get the front to grip up..."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): "We're not sure what happened yet, we just lost drive. It was a tough weekend. We struggled all weekend with the car's handling. We did everything we could to make it better. We did a good job keeping it in the race. We just didn't have enough for everyone. Capping it off with losing drive was a hard way to end the weekend. We put up a good fight. We did everything we could to be competitive. It was a tough weekend where nothing really went our way. All we can do is go to Toronto and have a solid weekend."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet): "Today was a big day for Chip Ganassi Racing with the first and second place finish - a huge congrats to Scott, Tony, Team Target, and the NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Team. We're a little disappointed to not come home with a top-five finish, especially with those guys at the end saving fuel. We definitely had the pace and the No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet was really solid all night. We just had to make some adjustments during some stops to get in the position to go fight for a higher position out there when we could. I think the one restart took a little more out of the tires than I was expecting, but we fought through it and were able to make up some positions. Overall we had a really good, well-fought race, and we can use this momentum heading into Toronto next weekend."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): "We constantly improved the car throughout the race, made our way through the field pretty well. We had a couple of slower stops, but all my crew and everyone on the team did a fantastic job to improve the car and give me a car I was comfortable racing with. Two top 10s in a row is really good progress, and we're just looking forward to continuing to improve on this momentum going onto the next few races."