Dixon Breaks Through With First 2017 Win

Scott Dixon tops the podium with a victory in the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America. [Andy Clary Photo]

Scott Dixon tops the podium with a victory in the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America. [Andy Clary Photo]

by Paul Gohde

He had been in the racing headlines recently due to racing incidents at Indianapolis and Texas. But today Scott Dixon made it safely to the end of a race and won the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America despite having to deal with engine trouble that made even participating today a question mark.

Starting fifth behind four quicker Chevrolet drivers, Dixon’s Honda took the lead for good 11 laps from the finish and held off a fast closing Josef Newgarden by 0.5799 seconds for his first Elkhart Lake win and his 41st in Indy car competition.

“We discovered issues with our fuel cell last night and we had no fuel pressure this morning and we couldn’t replicate it in the pits, so it took the warm-up lap to know if it was fixed. We changed the whole cell,” the eventual winner explained. “We really didn’t know if we’d complete a lap.”

But that they did after Dixon worked his way up to early leaders Helio Castroneves and Newgarden, making the last half of the race a competitive three-way battle.

Coming off of a restart on lap 48, leader Dixon and Newgarden went side-by-side toward turn 1 with Dixon holding serve on the outside; a move that kept him in charge through a challenging final segment. “The move to hold him off was worth a shot. I was worried but he (Newgarden) gave me room. He’s a guy you could do that with,” Dixon said.

Newgarden, racing for just the second time here, knew that the turn one showdown was probably going to mean the race, so he tried his hardest to hold off his veteran foe. “Scott is one of the hardest to pass. We were faster than he was, but not fast enough to pass. He went deep and I went in as hard as I could without hitting him,” the Penske Chevy driver admitted. “It’s hard when you know you have a winning car and you don’t. We didn’t get it done when it counted.”

Castroneves, who started on the pole, led 17 laps but fell back when he was passed on lap19 by Newgarden and finished a distant third as the two leaders battled to the finish. “We were good in the beginning but he was on blacks (primary tires) and was hard to hold off. I had to use my push-to-pass to make moves to get better results,” explained Castroneves who scored a third-place podium finish despite suffering from dehydration after the race.

Newgarden and Castroneves dominated the first 31 laps, trading the lead four times until Dixon was able to pass Newgarden on a restart in turn one, a foreshadowing of his decisive pass for the eventual win that would come at the same spot 13 laps later.

Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar champion never led a lap, but battled all race with Will Power and Charlie Kimball, each hoping that the three leaders might make a mistake and open the door for them to move to the front.

“The 9 car (Dixon) could make better mileage in clean air than anyone,” Kimball said. We made big gains today but we didn’t do a good job of managing our tires.”

Dixon’s win gave Honda teams some hope after being out-qualified by Chevrolet. Honda took six of the first ten finishing spots, while Dixon remained in the point’s lead by 34 over Pagenaud.

“This win was a big deal. We really struggled through the last few events,” said Dixon, who still shows a bit of a limp from his wild Indianapolis crash. “I give credit to Honda for this win, but we should have won some races earlier. Penske (cars) were strong this weekend.”

But today the sun shone on Dixon and Honda. Starting up front doesn’t always guarantee a win.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”