Scott Dixon’s win makes IndyCar title chase two-man race with teammate Alex Palou

AP photo by Jeff Roberson / Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon celebrates after winning Sunday's IndyCar race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.

MADISON, Ill. — IndyCar ironman Scott Dixon capitalized on needing to make only three pit stops and kept his championship hopes alive in winning Sunday's Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

The victory was the 55th of Dixon's career on North America's top open-wheel circuit, and it came in his record-extending 320th consecutive IndyCar start. He set the record two weeks ago at the Gallagher Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"They're all special, right?" Dixon said. "These last few races I think have been good on all fronts, right? We've had to cover all bases, whether it was speed, strategy, consistency throughout, great pit stops."

Dixon held the lead for 82 laps before pitting for the final time on lap 196 at World Wide Technology Raceway's 1.25-mile oval. With all the cars on the lead lap having to pit after he made his final stop, the 43-year-old from New Zealand took the checkered flag in his Honda-powered Chip Ganassi Racing entry, finishing more than 22 seconds ahead of second-place Pato O'Ward's Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

"He's just Scott Dixon," O'Ward said. "I feel like that's what he's best known for. He knows how to do it better than anybody, with a great combination that he has with his team and car and everything. It's a bummer that we weren't even close to kind of even race him."

The 22-second margin of victory broke the 23-year-old track record set by Juan Pablo Montoya when he finished almost 12 seconds ahead of Patrick Carpentier at the Motorola 300 in 2000.

Dixon said team engineer Ross Bunnell "did an amazing job ... and had a car that enabled me to kind of save the fuel that we needed. When I had 10 to go, I asked him, 'How much heat are we getting from behind?' They're like, 'It's over 20 seconds, so just cruise it.' I'm like, 'Oh, that's pretty sweet.' It's been a long time since I've had the race like that."

Team Penske's Josef Newgarden started in the top spot on the starting grid and led 101 of the first 104 laps. Scott McLaughlin, one of Newgarden's teammates, won the pole position in qualifying earlier Sunday but was forced to serve a nine-position grid penalty for unapproved use of a fifth engine this season. McLaughlin wound up fifth, behind Dixon, O'Ward, David Malukas and Alexander Rossi.

Colton Herta was sixth, season points leader Alex Palou was seventh, and Felix Rosenqvist, Will Power and Marcus Ericsson filled out the top 10. Ericsson managed that result despite falling a lap behind when his left rear tire fell off on pit road after not being properly secured during a stop under caution on the 128th lap.

Newgarden's quest to become the first IndyCar driver to win six consecutive races on ovals since A.J. Foyt in 1964 came to an end when his No. 2 Honda made contact with the wall in turn two on the 211th lap. Newgarden had won three consecutive races at World Wide Technology Raceway and four overall at the track near St. Louis.

The 32-year-old driver from Nashville has his first Indianapolis 500 victory among his four series wins this season, but his quest for a third IndyCar championship to go with those from the 2017 and 2019 seasons is over. Newgarden finished as runner-up in the final points standings the past three years, but Sunday's results dropped him from second to third and 125 points behind leader Palou.

With only next Sunday's race in Portland, Oregon, and the Sept. 10 finale in Monterey, California, remaining, Newgarden won't be able to make up enough ground to catch him.

After the qualifying session, which was pushed back to Sunday because of inclement weather Saturday, Newgarden expressed frustration with his position in the points standings but held out hope.

"I think there's disappointment that we're not in a different position," Newgarden said. "It doesn't affect what we do today. If we win the race, Alex is going to land where he lands. We can't control that. It's either a good day, or we slip further out of the possibility of it."

Now that possibility is gone altogether.

Dixon's victory pulled him to within 74 points of Palou, one of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, and now they're in a two-man race for the title as the series visits road courses for the final two events. Dixon already holds the IndyCar record with six championships, while the 26-year-old Palou is seeking a second title to add to his 2021 crown.

Said Dixon: "Going into the last few races, to only have a Ganassi driver able to win the championship is very cool and very, very good for this team and the amount of effort."