Dixon Leads, Pagenaud Stars for Honda in Iowa

Dixon Leads, Pagenaud Stars for Honda in Iowa

Scott Dixon led 76 laps of a rain-delayed Iowa Corn Indy 250 Saturday night at Iowa Speedway and appeared to be in contention for his second win for 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. But Dixon slipped to a fourth-place finish in the closing laps after getting caught by eventual race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and then held up by lapped traffic.

In just his fourth oval race, Simon Pagenaud starred in his Schmidt Hamilton Racing Honda Dallara, coming from 25th and last on the starting grid to a fifth-place finish, solidifying his hold on sixth place in the overall drivers’ championship and increasing his lead in the chase for series Rookie of the Year honors.

Dixon started eighth in tonight’s 250-lap contest, which was delayed approximately 40 minutes while workers dried the track after a series of mid-afternoon showers. He spent most of the first half of the race at the tail end of the lead pack. But his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team elected to take him “off sequence” with a pit stop on Lap 100. That moved him to the front when most of the remaining cars made their next scheduled stops, and put Dixon in contention for the victory.
However, an encounter with lapped traffic on Lap 237 cost him valuable momentum, and he quickly dropped to fourth place as Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan quickly worked their way past.

Meanwhile Pagenaud, who had struggled mightily in Friday’s practice and qualifying heat races, suddenly found a great balance as the race wore on, and steadily moved through the field, reaching the top-10 by mid-race and climbing to fifth at the checkers.

Other Honda-powered drivers had less luck tonight. Polesitter Dario Franchitti was the first retirement when a sudden engine failure – the same engine that powered him to victory in last month’s Indianapolis 500 – ended his race as the field approached the green flag. Texas race winner Justin Wilson ran in the lead group several times, but lost ground during each pit stop. Josef Newgarden raced near the front of the field during the first 100 laps, but then lost ground and ended his race on Lap 178 as a result of contact with race leader Ryan Briscoe.

Concluding this run of five consecutive race weekends that opened with the Indianapolis 500 in May, the IZOD IndyCar Series now takes a week off before resuming with the series’ annual Canadian swing, starting with the July 8 Honda Indy Toronto.