Scott Dixon capped a perfect weekend with a perfect Sunday drive to win the IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen as the Verizon IndyCar Series' completed its return to Watkins Glen International in place of the cancelled Boston round.
The #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver led 50 of 60 laps to collect his fourth triumph on the 3.37-mile permanent road course steeped in open-wheel racing history. It was also the 40th victory of the 36-year old Kiwi's Indycar career, breaking a tie with legendary Al Unser for fourth on the all-time list.
Dixon, the four-time series champion, nursed his final tank of Sunoco E85R ethanol for 19 laps to cross the finish line 16.5308secs ahead of Josef Newgarden in the tenth Verizon IndyCar Series race at Watkins Glen but the first since 2010. It was also the 102nd Indy car win for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
"I just love being back here," said Dixon, who won three straight at the track from 2005-07. "I think we should have a double-points race here and probably race two or three times [a season] at The Glen.
"These are the weekends that you definitely don't forget, just in the sheer fact of we had such a smooth one. The car was just fantastic and the track, I love. I love coming to upstate New York and this track is one of the old-school great American tracks that we're lucky enough to come back here and race."
Despite the outcome, however, Dixon and five other drivers were eliminated from Verizon IndyCar Series championship contention with only the 2016 season finale - the double-points GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on 18 September - remaining on the schedule. Team Penske team-mates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are the two drivers still eligible, with Pagenaud holding a 43-point advantage.
Pagenaud, in the #22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, finished seventh in today's race, while Power finished 20th after making contact with Charlie Kimball and crashing the #12 Verizon Chevy into the turn five barrier. Power was examined by the IndyCar medical staff and released from the Watkins Glen care centre, but has not been cleared to resume driving pending further evaluation of concussion-like symptoms.
"It was a pretty eventful day," Pagenaud said. "The last caution made it so the guys in front had to save a lot of fuel, and we didn't save enough at the start of the stint and were very slow. We made it back in seventh and, for the championship, the day was very good. We collected a lot of points and we have a bit of a cushion going into Sonoma. We still have to race hard, but it's going to be a lot more comfortable."
Starting from pole position after leading all four practice sessions during the weekend, Dixon - who donated his $40,000 weekend winnings to the Justin Wilson Children's Fund to support the family of the late Indycar driver - was the class of the 22-car field. He built a lead of more than 14secs prior to the last of three full-course cautions for the incident with Power and Kimball on lap 39.
The New Zealander made his final pit-stop on lap 41 and took the lap 42 restart in fourth place behind Carlos Munoz, Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti, each of home elected not to pit under the caution but forced to do so within the next seven laps.
Once back in front, Dixon managed his fuel while others behind made late stops for a splash or ran out altogether. Newgarden also completed the last 19 laps on one tank in the #21 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet, overtaking James Hinchcliffe, who ran out of ethanol on the last lap, for second place.
"I think we had a great car in the race," said Newgarden, a podium finisher for the fourth time this season. "Wasn't as good as Scott's; I think he was just clearly ahead of everyone this weekend."
Helio Castroneves finished third in the #3 Hitachi Team Penske, his best performance in seven Watkins Glen races.
Earlier race incidents saw Mikhail Aleshin back into the turn four barrier on lap 15 and Graham Rahal hit the barrier in turn one on lap 20 after making contact with Kimball. Neither Aleshin and Rahal nor were injured.