Scott Dixon stretches fuel to inch closer to A.J. Foyt on IndyCar’s all-time win list

Scott Dixon used mind-boggling fuel-saving strategy Sunday to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach and move closer to A.J. Foyt on IndyCar’s all-time win list with his 57th career victory.

Foyt is IndyCar’s winningest driver with 67 victories — a mark the 43-year-old Dixon isn’t sure he can hit.

“Still sounds like a lot,” he said. “Some years there you could knock out five, six or seven (wins). If it’s a good year, you can possibly get four or five. That’s strong. We’ll just keep our head down, man. It’s one of those things that I always say hopefully when you leave the sport, you’re happy with the stats.

“Of course, these are big stats. This is a big deal. We’re still a long way away from that.”

Colton Herta and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou were baffled by Dixon’s ability to stretch his fuel for nearly 50 of the 85 laps.

“Once he took (the lead), I was like, ‘He’s going to make it work,’” said Dixon teammate Palou. “Probably he’s cheating and he has an extra fuel cell that I don’t know about. Yeah, that’s it. I’m joking.”

Runner-up Herta said Dixon needed both a fast car and his fuel-saving skills to pull it off.

“You need to be good at fuel saving, but you also need a good car to do that,” Herta said. “There’s a few guys in the series that are probably capable of doing it, but they need a lot of things to go right, a lot of things for their car to be able to handle saving fuel.

“Obviously seems like Dixon is the only one that goes for these things sometimes, and they always work out.”

Dixon, with a sly smile, downplayed how easy he made it look.

“I think it was definitely a bit sketchy in the fact that the pressure is coming hard and strong,” he said. “We have a light that comes on that gives you a couple of laps heads up that you’re actually going to run out of fuel. I didn’t see it with two laps to go. They came on the radio saying, ‘Go flat out, overtake, whatever you need.’

“That was definitely nice to hear at that point because the stress level was pretty high. To get after it for the last two laps without a concern was big.”

Dixon’s win is his second in the most prestigious street course race in the United States and gave Chip Ganassi Racing a sweep of the weekend. Ganassi’s sports car team of Renger van der Zande and Sebastian Bourdais won the IMSA race on Saturday.

The victory also makes it two straight for Ganassi in IndyCar as reigning series champion Palou won the exhibition race last month in California. He was third behind Dixon and Herta on Sunday.

Dixon was being chased over the final 20 laps by Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, who seemed to have the speed to run Dixon down for the victory. But the race changed when Herta ran into the back of Newgarden as they all slowed through the hairpin with lapped traffic ahead.

It knocked Newgarden out of the way as both Herta and Palou passed him.

“He just stopped in the middle of the corner,” Herta complained of Newgarden. Herta finished 0.9798 seconds behind Dixon for Andretti Global and later apologized to Newgarden.

“Ideally you want to exit the corner as straight as possible to get the best run onto the straight. You do that by opening up the entry. But it slows down your speed so much on the entry, if you’re not doing that every lap, it’s tough to kind of gauge how fast he was going to be going there. He opened it up,” Herta said. “Ultimately it’s his right to do that. It’s my right to not run into the back of him there.”

Newgarden, who fell to fourth, didn’t understand why Herta wasn’t penalized.

“I’m not sure how lifting someone two feet in the air isn’t a penalty,” said Newgarden, who wasn’t sure he’d have been able to catch Dixon, anyway. “That seems pretty black and white to me, but I’d ask the question to everybody else: If it were in the reverse, I’d expect to be penalized.”

As Dixon celebrated, his rivals wondered how the Kiwi had enough fuel to not only make it to the finish but also celebrate with burnouts and drive the car to victory lane.

Dixon dedicated the win to Sir Colin Giltrap, a New Zealand motorsport benefactor who died Wednesday and was instrumental in Dixon’s career, as well as many of the top Kiwis racing around the world.

Palou finished third, making it a Honda sweep in a race sponsored by its Acura brand. Newgarden in fourth was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver.

Felix Rosenqvist started on the pole — the first in IndyCar for Meyer Shank Racing — but Will Power on alternate tires wasted no time in blowing past Rosenqvist through the first turn. Rosenqvist was a rock from there as rivals began to pick off the pole-sitter one by one and he was down to sixth by the eighth lap.

He finished ninth.

The race changed for Power — and Dixon — when rookie Christian Rasmussen spun and crashed hard into the wall. Jack Harvey’s car was damaged as he couldn’t avoid Rasmussen ramming into him.

The ensuing caution led Power to make a pit stop and Dixon followed. It gave Newgarden the lead on the 18th lap and Dixon and Power were in full fuel-saving mode for the remainder of the race. Power restarted 12th but was eventually passed by Dixon, who then worked his way through the field.

Power finished sixth, right behind Marcus Ericsson in his best finish so far with his new Andretti team.

F2 champion Theo Pourchaire, who made his IndyCar debut as the replacement for injured McLaren driver David Malukas. Pourchaire had never driven an Indy car prior to Friday’s first practice session.

UP NEXT: IndyCar races next Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Scott McLaughlin is the defending race winner. After nearly a five-week break, IndyCar is now on track seven of the next eight weekends.

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AP IndyCar: https://apnews.com/hub/indycar

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