Dixon eyes record 7th championship after win in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Scott Dixon passed Mario Andretti for second on IndyCar’s all-time winning list with a victory Sunday in the messy Music City Grand Prix that put him within reach of a record seventh championship series.

Dixon overcame a poor qualifying effort, damage to his Chip Ganassi Racing car, a crash-fest on the streets of downtown Nashville and finally a drag race against Scott McLaughlin in a two-lap push to the finish . He won for the 53rd time in his career to break a tie with Andretti for second place in the all-time column.

More importantly, Dixon jumped to second in the points standings and Trails series leader Will Power by six points with three races to go. One more title would tie him to AJ Foyt with a record seven championships.

Foyt is also IndyCar’s all-time winner with 67 wins.

McLaughlin, for Team Penske, finished second for a one-two finish for the New Zealand drivers.

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The 0.1067 second margin of victory was the fourth closest in IndyCar history on a road or street course.

“He’s a legend, the GOAT,” McLaughlin said. “I always dreamed of racing him to the finish line. It was a real duel.”

Reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished third as Ganassi placed two drivers on the podium. Palou moved up one spot in the standings to fifth as 33 points separate the title contenders. En route to victory lane, team owner Chip Ganassi stopped to congratulate Palou, the driver he is suing for trying to leave the organization at the end of the season.

Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta both returned after a lap down to finish fourth and fifth for Andretti Autosport, while local driver Josef Newgarden finished sixth.

Newgarden has had a tough time since crashing while leading at Iowa three races ago. He was leading in points before the crash, collapsed and hit his head after being wrecked, and had to pass a battery of medical tests to be cleared to compete last weekend at Indianapolis.

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In Nashville, he reduced his pre-race obligations to be rested and able to race for the win. Despite being the late race leader, Newgarden had to refuel and then came into contact with Romain Grosjean, who was furious with Newgarden after the collision.

“Welcome to IndyCar. It’s getting tight. I don’t know what to say to him,” Newgarden said. “Let me tell you what, I myself have been eliminated six times. I probably need to have discussions with some of the younger ones, but they are aggressive. They are very aggressive and if you are not aggressive back you get run over. It’s IndyCar racing. You have to learn that pretty quickly. I don’t like it, but that’s the game we’re in.

Pato O’Ward was the biggest loser in the race, which in its second year was slowed 10 times for 36 of the 80 laps. The start was also delayed 90 minutes due to rain and lightning in the area.

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O’Ward came to Nashville fifth in the standings but dropped to seventh and likely out of the championship draw with a 24th-place finish. He was drilled from behind by Graham Rahal when O’Ward slowed down the track to avoid running into Power on lap 26.

“I only have two paddles and an emergency switch. None of this works,” O’Ward said after being hit. “Thank you Graham Rahal. We can’t take a fucking break. It’s a joke.”

It was an equally difficult day for defending winner Marcus Ericsson, who was only nine points behind Power at the start of the race. But like teammate Dixon, Ericsson had a poor qualifying effort and struggled to qualify from 18th place.

He finished 14th and dropped to third in the standings. The Indianapolis 500 winner trails Power by 12 points.

NASCAR ANDRETTI

Marco Andretti announced his NASCAR debut before the start of the race. He will race the Xfinity Series on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 8, driving for Big Machine Racing.

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Andretti comes out of the championship in the second season of Tony Stewart’s Superstar Racing Experience all-star series.

“He did a great job in SRX and I think his skills will shine brightly in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” said team owner Scott Borchetta.

Andretti will drive the #48 Chevrolet.

NEXT UP: IndyCar races Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology at Gateway outside St. Louis. This is the last oval of the program. Josef Newgarden is the defending winner of the race.

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