Monday, Apr 16 11:03am
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Costly strategy call sees Scott Dixon penalised

Scott Dixon finished 11th in a race that should have seen him record his best result of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.


Dixon was a shoe in for a top three finish at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but a penalty for entering the pit lane under full course caution ended that chance.


Dixon said the decision to stay out after leader and eventual race winner Alexander Rossie pitted was pointless and they should have pitted earlier. 


“I think there was a bit of confusion," Dixon said after the race.


"First of all, we shouldn’t have been hanging ourselves out to dry there. We had no pressure from behind. I don’t know what we were trying to gain. It just made no sense.


“[Rossi] pitted a couple of laps before with a bunch of other people. The only possibility of what was going to happen was what did. You shoot yourself in the foot and you go to the back of the field."


Dixon pitted under the yellow and changed tyres while rival Sebastien Bourdais drove through and had to pit later. When asked whether the penalty was justified he said it was just a bad mistake by him and the team.


“The IndyCar call was legit. When I came into the pits it was red. They read on the IM (Instant Messanger) that it was okay to pit, but obviously they think that was maybe from the stop before.


“[There was] a little bit of confusion there and I picked up a penalty later.


"We were too loose all day and we couldn’t get the power down, which was a little bit frustrating. We should’ve been on the podium, no doubt.”


Dixon made a good start to maintain fourth but Graham Rahal got to the outside of the Kiwi and stole the spot.


Drama struck early. Rahal braked too late and punted the back of Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman spun out of control and slammed into the wall, which put an endo to his race.


The race was quickly brought to a halt with Pagenaud’s car stranded in the run off area of turn one. Alexander Rossi led Australian Will Power and Rahal, but the third placed driver was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.


Ryan Hunter-Reay tried to put a pass on Dixon at turn one and subsequently hit the left rear of his car. The American headed to the pit lane to get a new front wing.


On the restart Rossi blitzed the field and stretched the lead out to five car lead after only one lap.


The race settled into a rhythm with Rossi nearly four seconds clear or Power, Dixon another second back in third.


There were problems for Robert Wickens on lap 25 when he pitted. A lengthy pit stop dropped him down the order after they needed to fix an electrical issue that was causing issues. However, the issue persisted and he headed back to the pit lane.


Power, Dixon and Pagenaud all headed to the pit lane on lap 30 to swap onto the harder compound black wall tyres.


There was a drag race between Dixon and Power as they both left their respective pit boxes. Dixon got the hole shot out of the lane, however, and got up to second on the road.


Rossi’s undercut worked well with a seven second margin at the line after the pit stop sequence played out.


Rookie Kyle Kaiser brought out the second safety car of the day when he stopped out on track come lap 42.


The race restarted five laps later with Rossi and second placed Dixon split by three lapped cars. Rossi immediately gapped the field.


With Dixon battling to get past the lapped traffic, Bourdais put pressure on the Kiwi.


Dixon got a move done on lapped traffic at turn one, but then Bourdais sliced across the nose of Dixon and another lapped car to take the spot away in an unbelievable move.


That dropped Dixon down to third. However, he was given a break when Bourdais was asked by race control to give the position back to Dixon. An investigation found that Bourdais had crossed the pit lane exit line, which is out of bounds.


The Frenchman gave the position back, but with the push-to-pass activated he the got a move back done on the Kiwi.


A midst the kerfuffle, Rossi extended his lead to seven seconds. He made his final pit stop on lap 57.


There was more drama to come when Bourdais and Dixon came to the pit lane just as the full course caution came out. To add salt to the wounds, Bourdais’ teammate was the driver who caused the caution.


Bourdais was sent to the back of the pack straight away. There was confusion for the Chip Ganassi Racing who didn’t receive a penalty immediately. However, as the race went green Dixon was given a drive-through.


That dropped him to the very back of the pack. He was given a slight life line with 14 laps to go when the fourth caution came out that allowed him to catch up to the back of the train.


Bourdais got spun by Formula 2 graduate Jordan King. Stranded in the middle of the track, Hunter-Reay and Wickens got stuck behind. Wickens stalled and with debris at the hairpin the race was brought under control of the safety car.


Dixon restarted in 14th with nine laps to go. Rossi got a good restart and second placed Power went with him. They cleared out over Chip Ganassi driver Ed Jones in third who eventually took his first podium of the season and equal best career finish.


Hunter-Reay encountered more trouble. He hit the wall ahead of Dixon and suffered damaged suspension. That gave the Kiwi a free pass into 13th, then he dispatched Leist for 12th with six laps to go.


Despite a late charge, Power couldn’t get past Rossie for the win. Dixon got a move on Jack Harvey for 11th and just missed out on getting inside the top 10.


Photo: Sourced