Scott Dixon dominated both street races in Toronto last weekend, scoring his second and third wins in a row. Dixon led a 1-2-3 sweep for Chip Ganassi’s team in the previous weekend’s Pocono 400 and after a difficult start to the season both driver and team have finally hit their stride in recent weeks, showing strength on both a big superspeedway and a tight, rough street circuit.
Dixon won Saturday’s race in Toronto in convincing style. After starting fifth he took the lead for the first time with 25 laps to go and pulled away to win comfortably after a brief tussle with Sebastien Bourdais. Dixon’s second win in a row moved him into third in IndyCar’s championship behind Hélio Castroneves and Marco Andretti and gave him a realistic hope of winning his first IndyCar title since 2008.
“We had perfect pitstops today,” Dixon said. “But we definitely had the speed as well. It was one of the those afternoons of waiting patiently to get the best out of it, but the car was fantastic. This is what we need to get the momentum going.”
Team-mate Dario Franchitti qualified on the pole for the first race in Toronto and led the opening laps, eventually finishing a close third behind Bourdais who drove his best race of the year. Bourdais drives these days for Roger Penske’s youngest son Jay’s team and a recent change of engineers helped the Frenchman run at the front in Toronto. He led 20 laps, battling hard with Dixon, Franchitti and Will Power.
Franchitti was given a 25 second penalty for blocking Power on the last lap, but the penalty was rescinded after an appeal from Ganassi’s team. Power led almost 30 laps in the middle of the race but finished his day in the tyre barrier after trying to out-brake Franchitti at the end of the back stretch on the last lap.
Marco Andretti finished fourth with Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan taking fifth and championship leader Castroneves extending his point lead with sixth place. Defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay lost ground to Castroneves and Dixon after a disastrous race. Hunter-Reay stalled in the pits on both stops, then slid into the tyre barriers while trying to out-brake teammate EJ Viso in the closing laps.
Dixon started Sunday’s race from the pole and led all the way, save for pitstops. Until a couple of full course yellows closed-up the field late in the race, he had pulled out a 15 second lead over championship rival Castroneves. In fact, the race finished under the yellow after a multi-car collision in the first turn on a restart eliminated Power, Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato. So Dixon took his third win in a row, this time from Castroneves, Bourdais and Franchitti.
“It was a little harder today,” Dixon commented. “The race was a little faster paced than yesterday’s. I was definitely trying to hang on there, but it’s great to have such a strong run here. We’re second in the points now, 29 behind Helio. What a turnaround in a couple of weeks! It’s a big deal for us. We’ll narrow it down now and try to go for the championship.”
Castroneves enjoyed his best race since winning in Texas last month and continues with a healthy point lead. “Scott was in a completely different league,” Castroneves said. “I was pushing as hard as I could. I had a very good car, but whatever he’s taking for breakfast, I want it!”
Bourdais was delighted to follow his second place on Saturday with an equally competitive run to third on Sunday. “I had a really good car on the restarts,” Bourdais said. “The car was really hooked up so I had to go for it.”
Franchitti drove a great race to finish fourth on Sunday after having to stop for a new nose at the end of the opening lap. Dario collided with Castroneves in the first turn, damaging his right front wing, but he came through the field for a good finish and pulled himself into equal sixth in points with Tony Kanaan.
Dixon’s string of victories means he is now IndyCar’s leading active driver with 32 wins just ahead of Franchitti, Bourdais and Paul Tracy, each of whom have 31 wins. In his 13th year racing Indycars Dixon now is ranked seventh on the all-time winners list behind AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser and Al Unser Jr.