Scott Dixon rides massive fuel save, Josef Newgarden's late-race stall to Long Beach win

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- As only Scott Dixon seemingly can, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver drove a masterclass of a fuel save to the lead in Sunday's Grand Prix of Long Beach, and then held off a late-race blitz from Josef Newgarden to secure win No. 57 of his career -- moving the six-time champion 10 wins from A.J. Foyt's all-time IndyCar mark.

To do so, though, Dixon got help from an unpenalized bump from Colton Herta into the back of Newgarden with under 10 laps to go that scrambled the top-5 and helped the CGR veteran maintain his cushion to the end.

"Josef was coming strong, and I was kinda unsure how we could beat him once he got behind us," Dixon said from Victory Lane. "But (team owner Chip Ganassi) said just go for it, and man, I was gonna try.

"This win is way up there, man, and the stress levels were high. Those guys were coming fast and strong. I saw Josef coming and thought, 'Man, this is going to be tough.'"

Here's how he did it:

Apr 20, 2024; Long Beach, California, USA; Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon (9) of New Zealand during qualifying at Long Beach Street Circuit. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2024; Long Beach, California, USA; Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon (9) of New Zealand during qualifying at Long Beach Street Circuit. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Herta stalls Newgarden with late-race bump

With eight laps to go and Newgarden inching within just a couple tenths of the eventual race-winner, runner-up Herta slid into the back of the No. 2 Chevy in the middle of the hairpin leading into the front-straight.

The contact sent Newgarden into anti-stall mode, opening him up to approaches from Herta and Alex Palou, before the Penske driver got back moving again. Newgarden would go on to finish 4th, unable to recover from the bump. On the radio, Newgarden and his strategist (and Team Penske president) Tim Cindric were at a loss for words on how Herta wasn't called for an avoidable contact penalty for the move.

On Lap 1, Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward ran into the back of teammate Alexander Rossi around the fountain and was given a drive-thru for an error he admitted later on the radio was his fault and his alone.

"I don't know, it seemed pretty obvious that he just misjudged it and ran into me, and once I got lifted, I went into anti-stall mode and couldn't get going," Newgarden said post-race. "I had to wait for the clutch to disengage and reset and just kinda stalled there for a second.

"I think we've got to be happy with 4th, but I'm just not sure about that Herta deal. I think (IndyCar race control) has to look at that. When you hit somebody, I guess it is what it is, but it's not when I hit somebody, but if we've got to take a 4th, we'll take a 4th."

Herta on contact: 'It's on me'

Herta was asked moments later on the post-race broadcast about the incident, and after initially questioning on his in-race radio Newgarden's slow pace through the corner, the Andretti Global driver was quick to admit he was in the wrong.

"I misjudged it a little," Herta said of the contact with Newgarden. "He set up pretty wide coming in, but ultimately, it's on me to keep the right speed coming into the corner. It's definitely something to put in the back of my mind. I don't like racing like that -- especially on someone like Josef who I have a lot of respect for."

Early caution sets up split strategies

The field was split into a pair of defined fuel strategies early-on after a Lap 15 solo crash from Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Christian Rasmussen, who the lap before slapped the wall with his left side in Turn 11. On exit of Turn 4 the following circuit, he lost the rear and spun around and nailed the wall -- pinning Jack Harvey's No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in the process -- to bring out a full-course caution.

After passing polesitter Felix Rosenqvist before Turn 1 of the race, fellow front-row starter Will Power strung out a seven-plus second gap on Newgarden before the caution. Penske opted to split its front-running cars onto separate strategies, pitting Power on Lap 18 along with Dixon, Christian Lundgaard, Kyle Kirkwood, Scott McLaughlin and others.

Those who stayed out included Newgarden, Herta, Palou, Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson.

The move then meant those who pitted under caution would only have to make a single green-flag stop, but would also have to save fuel dramatically across the course of the rest of the race. Newgarden and company, on the other-hand, would go on to make a pair of green-flag stops but could run full-tilt to the end.

Newgarden took over the lead with Power pitting and led his strategy group into their first round of pits on Lap 31. By that point, Dixon had overtaken Power on-track during the race's lone restart. At the race's halfway point on Lap 43, Dixon led Power by nearly 7 seconds. The leaders dipped into the pits on Lap 52, handing the reins back to Newgarden, who then topped off for the final time on Lap 59.

The eventual 4th-place finisher came out of the pits 8th, 7 seconds back of Dixon with 25 laps to go while lapping more than 1 second per lap faster than the eventual winner at the time. By Lap 67, Newgarden had trimmed that gap to just 2.6 seconds, and the Penske driver closed within a half-second by Lap 71, but Newgarden couldn't find a spot to make what would've likely been a race-winning move to get around Dixon.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Scott Dixon wins Long Beach due to Colton Herta-Josef Newgarden contact