Scott Dixon led 167 laps--including the last 150--on his way to Victory Lane in Saturday's Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Dixon was able to maintain his advantage despite two late race cautions thanks to the current rules in the IndyCar Series. Unlike in NASCAR's top three series, the whole field is picked up by the pace car when the caution comes out and pits together, regardless of laps completed. The cars then are picked up again by the pace car in the order that they came out of the pits, once again regardless of number of laps completed.
This was important for Dixon, as when the pace car picked him up after a caution following green flag pit stops on lap 179 of 200, there were numerous lap down cars between he and Helio Castroneves, who ended up finishing fourth.
On the ensuing restart from that caution, another caution came out, and the running order remained the same, with seven lapped cars separating Dixon and Castroneves. By the time that the race finally went back green on lap 194, Dixon was in the clear.
Dixon had 18 push to passes remaining for the final seven laps, and said that when he used them all on the final four laps, his average lap speed jumped from the low 210s to the 212s. But those lapped cars were more important, as they were impossibly hard for the leaders to pass all day.
"I think it's up to the series to keep them in position and police them. If they continue to drive like that, then you're going to have to get them out of the way," Dario Franchitti, the defending IndyCar champion who finished second said.
"You know, in situations when I'm a lap down I try and give the right of way to the lead lap cars, especially three laps to go. Are they going to get the lap back, finish top five? I don't quite understand the thinking. It's almost a respect thing. It's not just about the more experienced guys in the series, it's about the guys or the rookies or whoever fighting out front for the race. You've got to respect that they've had a better day and let them go for the win. We've seen two or three races this year where backmarkers have caused problems, big problems."
Franchitti wasn't alone in that sentiment, and don't dismiss his comments as whining because he finished second. When asked if he could have passed Dixon had there been no lapped traffic, Franchitti said he probably couldn't.
"That's up to the drivers. I don't think Brian (Barnhart, IndyCar Series director) and the league can control that," third place finisher Tony Kanaan said, "I'm not one to see them taken out of the way like that, because every time then what are you going to do? Every time it's going to be a big mess, it's going to take extra laps, this and that. But like Dario said, it's a matter of respect and for sure I think it is harmful to feel that we've been racing for a long time and they know exactly what's going on because you do it. I do it for him, he'll do it for me because it's going to come back and some guys I don't think understand that. But they will."
"It's a matter of common sense, honestly."
What transpired today at Kansas is essentially the polar opposite as what's happened in Sprint Cup over the past few weeks. Had the two late cautions not come out, barring a massive mechanical failure, Dixon would have cruised to the win by five seconds or so, whereas at Phoenix and Texas we've seen the cars who have dominated most of the day get caught back in the pack thanks to pit strategy off of late race cautions.
Should Castroneves, Franchitti and Kanaan had a chance to get to Dixon's rear wing for the final few laps? Or given how great Dixon was, was it justified that they were trapped back in the pack unable to come anywhere close to him?
- Scott Dixon