Scott Dixon was untouchable as he dominated from lights out at Watkins Glen for his second victory of 2016 and his fortieth of his Verizon IndyCar Series career on Sunday.
But the biggest story of the afternoon was the crash for Will Power that gives Simon Pagenaud the advantage heading into the final race of the season at Sonoma in two weeks time.
Power’s lap 39 battle with Charlie Kimball ended with the duo clashing as Kimball got a run on the Team Penske driver, but the Australian appeared not to see his rival, resulting in Power hitting the barriers hard and breaking both his left front and left rear suspensions.
More alarmingly for Power, he was taken to the medical centre and assessed after the incident, and although cleared to leave the centre, he was not given permission to drive again due to possible concussion-like symptoms, and will need to prove his fitness before the Sonoma finale.
Power’s retirement and subsequent twentieth place classification coupled with team-mate Pagenaud’s seventh place finish gives the Frenchman a healthier advantage in the championship standings, although the Sonoma race is worth double points, meaning the lead is not as secure as it looks.
Dixon was in sublime form however as he clinched victory on Watkins Glen’s first appearance on the IndyCar calendar since 2010, with the Chip Ganassi Racing star surviving a late race fuel save to win by 16.5308 seconds from Josef Newgarden.
Newgarden was also forced to save fuel in the closing stages and was running behind James Hinchcliffe until the final lap, but the Canadian was unable to manage his fuel well enough to make it to the chequered flag, finishing stuck two corners from the end at the side of the circuit.
Helio Castroneves completed the podium for Penske after a final lap pass on Conor Daly, who was also on fuel conservation mode in the closing stages, and ran out of fuel just as he crossed the line for Dale Coyne Racing. Castroneves on the other hand made a late pit stop for fuel, and was able to push until the chequered flag.
Sebastien Bourdais recovered from a first lap spin to claim fifth for KVSH Racing ahead of Kimball, who not only survived the incident with Power but also a brush with Graham Rahal that put the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver into the wall at turn one.
Kimball was one of those to gamble on pushing as much as he could before making a splash and dash for fuel with just a couple of laps remaining, and gained significant ground over those laps against those in fuel saving mode.
Pagenaud’s seventh was a good recovery drive for the championship leader after both he and team-mate Power were caught out early in the race by a caution period when Mikhail Aleshin’s left rear tyre exploded at turn four that spat the Schmidt Peterson Motorsport machine into the barriers.
Aleshin was unhurt in the incident, but those who had not pitted were compromised and fell behind those who had gambled on early pit stops, which included both of the championship protagonists.
Pagenaud then ran longer than Power in the second stint before pitting, and was challenging for a top five while the Australian struggled outside the top ten, before their respective afternoons were affected by fuel saving and by Power’s crash.
Alexander Rossi followed Pagenaud home for Andretti Herta Autosport, while RC Enerson took ninth for Dale Coyne Racing in just his second IndyCar race. Max Chilton took tenth, his best finish on a road course this season and only his second top ten of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Chilton had run as high as second behind team-mate Dixon but fell away towards the end, and was unable to make the same strategy call work as Kimball did despite leading him into the pits.
Watkins Glen International Race Result
|1||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:41:39.8592|
|2||21||Josef Newgarden||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+16.5308|
|3||3||Helio Castroneves||BRZ||Team Penske||+21.4417|
|4||18||Conor Daly||USA||Dale Coyne Racing||+24.3349|
|5||11||Sebastien Bourdais||FRA||KVSH Racing||+25.3815|
|6||83||Charlie Kimball||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||+29.4268|
|7||22||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||+31.1118|
|8||98||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+32.0710|
|9||19||RC Enerson||USA||Dale Coyne Racing||+32.3965|
|10||8||Max Chilton||GBR||Chip Ganassi Racing||+32.9478|
|11||26||Carlos Munoz||COL||Andretti Autosport||+34.7869|
|12||27||Marco Andretti||USA||Andretti Autosport||+35.3813|
|13||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||COL||Team Penske||+37.7024|
|14||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||USA||Andretti Autosport||+42.4644|
|15||20||Spencer Pigot||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+45.3829|
|16||41||Jack Hawksworth||GBR||AJ Foyt Enterprises||+45.7584|
|17||14||Takuma Sato||JAP||AJ Foyt Enterprises||+1:07.4937|
|18||5||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||+1 Lap|
|19||10||Tony Kanaan||BRZ||Chip Ganassi Racing||+1 Lap|
|20||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||Retired|
|21||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Retired|
|22||7||Mikhail Aleshin||RUS||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||Retired|