NASCAR Race Weekend Central

IndyCar Breakdown: 2015 Firestone 600 at Texas

Scott Dixon cruised away late to win the Firestone 600 IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway. There was no pack racing, no incidents, but lots of drama at the Fort Worth race track regardless. Keep reading to find out why.

How it happened

The engineering staff at Chip Ganassi Racing insisted on a higher downforce package for race day, but it took some convincing for Dixon, a three-time champion, to accept the decision as he wanted to race with less downforce, much like the Team Penske drivers had under them when they qualified four cars in the top five on Friday.

“The debate started last night after the warmup, and I thought I had my way,” Dixon said. “Then at 1 o’clock this afternoon, I got a text from [race engineer] Chris Simmons that said we were going the other way. 30 minutes before race, I was still moaning pretty good because obviously it’s pretty hard when you see the first three or four cars ahead of you on the grid with a lot less downforce.

“The debate went back and forth, but in hindsight, I’m glad they understand what they’re doing,” he added. “There’s so many choices that you can almost mess it up, and that’s why I just drive the car.”

Dixon led a race-high 97 laps, but didn’t take the top spot until lap 139 after his crew had worked on maximizing the balance of his Chevrolet for the second half of the race. Once in clean air, the No. 9 Target entry would not be denied, providing Dixon his second victory of the season.

He won over teammate Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti.

“Huge credit to the engineering group for the option that we went with, which was the high downforce level, because once we got the balance right, the car was basically on rails,” Dixon said.

“We knew from the last couple years that the key to the race was to be able to get through traffic, and tonight our car was great in traffic. It was one of those nights when you were just hoping there was no yellow. All in all, a big night. I’m stoked.”

Will Power started on the pole but quickly fell backwards with his downforce package. He finished 13th, two laps down. After debriefing with team manager and strategist Tim Cindric, Power needed to lay down on the ground, suffering from stomach cramps that may have attributed to his struggles.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said after the race.

While there was only one caution, for debris on lap 48, the race featured several instances of close racing, with Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball virtually staying side-by-side, off and on, throughout the night.

Another instance of the race saw Castroneves pinch Sebastien Bourdais on the grass in another display of will, grit and determination. And when the race stayed green for the final 197 laps, there was pit strategy and drama, with Andretti making his final two fuel runs last 53 laps in finishing third.

The race was safe, it was exciting and it was fun – something IndyCar needed after a dreary and wet weekend in Belle Isle.

IndyCar Likes Competition Package

Entering the week, there had been a lot of talk about the competition package the IndyCar Series should bring to Texas. After a decade plus of pack racing and the resulting close finishes, the DW12 chassis has separated the field from fans had grown accustomed to.

Dixon won by over seven seconds but there was passing and there was excitement.

“It was a great race,” Kanaan said. “That’s his opinion. He’s not racing cars. He’s a very good promoter — one of the best — so he should stick to that and let us race because that’s what we do.”

For his part, IndyCar competition director Derrick Walker said he felt like the series was going in the right direction but needed the fans to speak up and help steer the ship moving forward.

“I thought it was pretty exciting,” Walker said. “We’ve got work to do but we always have work to do. The aero kits made for good racing. There was lot of passing and a good race winner so, yeah, so far and so good, better than last year, I thought.”

While offering his opinion, Walker maintained that the fans would dictate the direction the series goes with their racing, urging them to tweet and send emails because the tour is paying attention.

“All the fans here are the ones we need to ask,” Walker added. “We know we can always do better. Today, I thought was better than last year. The cars are coming back to the field. Was it enough? Let’s ask the fans.”

Juan Pablo Montoya Will Not Run the Brickyard 400

When asked if Roger Penske would run Indianapolis 500 winner Montoya in the Brickyard 400 for a second-consecutive season, his answer was clear and concise.

“No sir,” Penske said. “No I am not.”

Team Penske entered Montoya in two Sprint Cup Series races last season, with finishes of 18th and 23rd at Michigan and Indianapolis, respectively. There was some hope among fans that Penske would again enter Montoya into the NASCAR race at Indianapolis to chase the season sweep of both major events at the venerable old speedway.

Championship Standings Receive Shakeup

With his second victory of the season, Dixon has moved back into the championship picture. The first eight races of the season had seen Penske veterans Montoya, Power and Castroneves create some separation, but Dixon is suddenly right back in the hunt with seven races remaining.

He’s third in the standings and 43 points behind Montoya, who finished fourth. Power is second and eight points ahead of Dixon due to his struggles on Saturday night.

“We would obviously like to start these seasons stronger,” Dixon said. “This is one of our better ones, even with an awful start in the first two races.

“This team has a lot of resources, so you know you’ll have a shot every weekend,” he continued. “But the competition is tough, especially with four Penske cars and four very legitimate drivers. So we’re not going to dwell on this.”

Complete Race Results

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Tony Kanaan
  3. Helio Castroneves
  4. Juan Pablo Montoya
  5. Marco Andretti
  6. Carlos Munoz
  7. Charlie Kimball
  8. Ryan Briscoe
  9. James Jakes
  10. Gabby Chaves
  11. Simon Pagenaud
  12. Sage Karam
  13. Will Power
  14. Sebastien Bourdais
  15. Graham Rahal
  16. Takuma Sato
  17. Pippa Mann
  18. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  19. Stefano Coletti
  20. Tristan Vautier
  21. Josef Newgarden
  22. Ed Carpenter
  23. Jack Hawksworth
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