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Scott Dixon claims Detroit Grand Prix for fourth time in race filled with crashes, stops

Scott Dixon's calculated risk to emerge from the chaos paid off in the 2024 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with his record-setting fourth win at the Detroit Grand Prix.

Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing decided to remain on the course in his No. 9 Honda during Lap 65 while most of the field decided to make a pit stop under a caution flag, allowing the New Zealand racer to move into the lead, which he did not relinquish in the final 35 laps for his fourth win in the Motor City and his second win of the 2024 IndyCar season.

This is the first time Dixon has won on the new downtown street course, which returned for the second year after he recorded three wins on Belle Isle between 2012 and 2019. He had to navigate a dizzying amount of crashes and yellow caution flags caused by the challenges of Detroit's city streets and withstand a late push from second-place finisher Marcus Ericsson in the No. 28 Honda and third-place finisher Marcus Armstrong in the No. 11 Honda.

"Any win is special but it is cool to get two wins in different places," Dixon said.

Ericsson finished 0.86 seconds behind Dixon, and Armstrong was 4.91 off the winning time. Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 27 Honda finished in fourth and Alexander Rossi, No. 7, was the lone Chevrolet driver in the top five, finishing fifth, 8.95 seconds off Dixon.

"It felt good to spoil the party, for sure," Ericsson said about Honda sweeping the podium under GM's headquarters. "I think Honda did a great job this weekend."

The 100-lap race around the 1.645-mile track, circling the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, started with a green flag at 12:42 p.m. and ran until 2:47.

Racers came into the week with more knowledge of the new downtown track, but bumpy roads, tight turns, narrow walls and a brief spell of rain caused most of the race to happen under the yellow caution flag. There were eight caution periods and a total of 1 hour, 5 minutes of race time spent under a yellow flag compared to an hour under a green flag. Tire choice in the rain, avoiding crashes, and ultimately fuel consumption over the 100-lap auto marathon proved to be the biggest factors in moving up and down the leaderboard.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon celebrates winning the NTT IndyCar Series of Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.
Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon celebrates winning the NTT IndyCar Series of Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

"You are on confined streets, it is really tough if you make any kind of mistake," Dixon said.

Dixon was able to build a 3-second lead after he stayed on the course instead of re-fueling. He was able to maintain that lead down the stretch in part because of a crucial pass of pole winner Colton Herta, lapping him and creating distance between himself and Ericsson at the end. The racing down the stretch was certainly interesting, but it was impossible to ignore the sheer amount of chaos created by some bad weather and Detroit's narrow course.

"I think some of today was a little bit of luck," Dixon said. "Today, it kind of played our way a little bit but it was still very tight. There were many people on our strategy and they couldn't make it."

NTT IndyCar Series drivers compete during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.
NTT IndyCar Series drivers compete during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

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On the very first turn of the race seconds after the green flag was waved, 2022 Detroit Grand Prix winner Will Power, driving the No. 26 Chevy for Team Penske, was hit while making the first turn in front of Hart Plaza by Theo Pourchaire driving the No. 6 Chevy on the inside, causing him to spin around and leading to a seven-car pileup. The first yellow caution flag came out immediately to clear out the traffic jam in Turn 3.

"People are driving reckless on the restarts," Ericsson said. "Obviously, there's opportunity in restarts but I don't know if we need to look at how we steward these kind of races."

Herta in the No. 26 Honda for Andretti Global started the race in pole position after finishing Saturday's qualifying with the fastest time, followed by 2023 Grand Prix winner Alex Palou in second in the No. 10 Honda. Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden started in third along with fellow Team Penske teammate and Chevy driver Scott McLaughlin in the second row.

Alex Palou, last year's winner who started the race on alternate tires, began dropping from second in Lap 10 with McLaughlin climbing to second and Kyle Kirkwood, driving the No. 27 Honda, moving to third. Palou had to pit for a new set of alternate tires, dropping into the 20s by Lap 11.

Fans watch NTT IndyCar Series drivers compete during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.
Fans watch NTT IndyCar Series drivers compete during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

On Lap 16, Santino Ferrucci drove his No. 14 Chevrolet into the rear of Helio Castroneves, causing him and Kyffin Simpson to hit the barriers, bringing out a second caution flag. The caution lasted until Lap 22, with Herta, McLaughlin and Kirkwood in the top 3, and Ferrucci was assessed a stop-and-go penalty. On Lap 25, Christian Rasmussen had to bow out of the race after his engine failed, causing the No. 20 Chevy to go up in smoke.

The third caution flag came out on Lap 32 when McLaughlin lost his grip and slid into the barrier on Turn 5 while in second place and then Newgarden passed Kirkwood for third. When the caution flag was out, rain started falling, causing the track to be slicked up, adding a layer of strategy on tire choice a third of the way into the race.

"I'm sure it was dramatic and fun to watch but at some point also, we need to have a bit better of a standard," Ericsson said.

Several cars pitted during Lap 35 to put on rain tires, while others remained on the track with slick tires, splitting the field. Christian Lundgaard, who started in the 11th spot in the No. 45 Honda, jumped to first while staying on the track with slick tires. The drama with the rain continued into Lap 38 with more cars pitting for new tires, but Lundgaard gambled and stayed out with the slicks.

The rain stopped minutes later, making the gamble pay off for Lundgaard, who remained in first when the green flag waved again on the Lap 41 restart. The green flag lasted all of 30 seconds, as Rinus Veekay and Power collided in the first turn, bringing out another caution.

"It was very slippery," Armstrong said. "For whatever reason, the tires this season have been very, let's say robust, and you can't really generate temperature. Even towards the end of the stint, it's not quite there in the right window. So I think a lot of the mistakes are also caused by the fact that the tire is not working early in the run. especially when they're cold."

Just before the crash, Kirkwood passed Lundgaard on the inside to take first. Lap 42 saw plenty of racers pit, but even that brought more issues. Lundgaard fell slightly after he bumped into a tire, and Newgarden nearly drove over one of Lundgaard's pit members after he accidentally ran over an errant hose, causing his car to jerk towards the pit wall, also delaying his exit.

NTT IndyCar Series drivers compete during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.
NTT IndyCar Series drivers compete during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

The next restart at Lap 46 saw Kirkwood in first with Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Honda trailing close behind, but Herta caused another caution trying to regain his lead. He attempted an inside pass on a turn but didn't have the space and went into the barrier, bringing the yellow flag back out.

Kirkwood remained in the lead during the Lap 52 restart, followed by Dixon and Marcus Ericsson in the No. 28 Honda. Another caution came out on Lap 53 when Lundgaard tried to pass Romain Grosjean, instead hitting him on the inside of his car. Caution lasted until Lap 60, which saw another crash between Pourchaire and Agustin Canapino, but both continued to race. The peace didn't last long after the rare consecutive laps under green flags. McLaughlin and Sting Ray Robb bumped each other in Lap 64, causing Robb to end up in the wall bringing the caution back out.

Most of the race pitted during Lap 65, but Dixon remained on the course to jump into the lead. The top five after the mass pit stop were Dixon, Marcus Armstrong, Tristan Vautier, Kirkwood and Newgarden. But Newgarden caused the eighth caution in Lap 70 when he drove into Kirkwood in Turn 3, causing him to spin into the wall, where Palou crashed into his side. The race restarted on Lap 74, bringing another span of peace before Newgarden collided with the wall on Lap 82 and had to exit the race, but no caution flag came out.

"We took a pretty bold strategy to pit I don't know even how many laps, almost 40 laps from the end," Dixon said of his last pit stop in Lap 56. "But I said at that lap, a hefty caution I think it was, that we could make it from that point."

Dixon continued to stretch his lead out in the final 20 laps while Armstrong, Kirkwood and Ericsson battled between second and fourth. Ericsson passed Kirkwood for third in Lap 90 then got past Armstrong on Lap 98 for second.

IndyCar Series winner Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon celebrates at the Winners' Circle during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.
IndyCar Series winner Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon celebrates at the Winners' Circle during Detroit Grand Prix in downtown Detroit on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

The checkered flag

Here are the top five finishers for Sunday's IndyCar Series race, the 2024 Detroit Grand Prix, with car make, total time and laps lead, if applicable:

1. Scott Dixon (Honda), 2 hours, 6 minutes, 7.9684 seconds (35 laps led)

2. Marcus Ericsson (Honda), 2:06:08.8251

3. Marcus Armstrong (Honda), 2:06:12.8813

4. Kyle Kirkwood (Honda), 2:06:14.0933 (24 laps led)

5. Alexander Rossi (Chevrolet), 2:06:16.9216

He loves Detroit

Scott Dixon won the Detroit Grand Prix for the fourth time. Here's a list of drivers with the most wins in the race, across IndyCar, CART and Formula One, dating back to 1982 (remember, there were two races per year from 2012-19):

Scott Dixon: 4 (2012, '18, '19, '24)

Helio Castroneves: 3 (2000, '01, '14)

Will Power: 3 (2014, '16, '22)

Ayrton Senna: 3 (1986, '87, '88)

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Scott Dixon wins Detroit Grand Prix for fourth time, first in downtown