A race that started out ominously for Honda ended in triumph, as Scott Dixon dominated tonight’s season-opener, leading 157 of 200 laps around the Texas Motor Speedway oval to score his 47th career Indy car win.
The first race of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES, delayed three months by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, took place without spectators and with limited crew members on a hot night in Fort Worth, Texas. With social distancing protocols preventing Honda engineers from assisting teams during the engine starting procedure on the grid, an issue with the spec series ECU resulted in Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi all going at least one lap down to the leaders in the opening laps.
At the front of the field, pole qualifier Josef Newgarden took the early lead, but it soon became apparent that Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, had two of the quickest cars in the field. Passing Newgarden for the lead on Lap 32, Dixon was rarely headed for the rest of the night, at times opening up leads of five seconds or more on the fast, 1.5-mile TMS oval. The dominating win was the fourth for Dixon at Texas, and the 47th of his career. With the win, he tied A.J. Foyt’s record 18 seasons with at least one IndyCar victory, and extended his own consecutive season win record to 16.
Equally strong throughout the night, Rosenqvist appeared headed for a second-place finish behind his teammate, until a late-race crash while attempting to pass the lapped car of James Hinchcliffe sent Rosenqvist into the wall on Lap 191.
Behind Dixon, Zach Veach rebounded from a disappointing 2019 season with a strong run to fourth place, equaling his career-best previous Indy car finish. Colton Herta steadily worked his way from 14th on the grid to finish seventh, while his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay recovered from his dramas at the start to claw his way back on to the lead lap and an eighth-place result.
Making his first oval race start in any series, Indy car rookie Alex Palou was the innocent victim when his Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda was collected by a spinning fellow rookie, Rinus Veekay, on Lap 36. Hinchcliffe’s first race back with Andretti Autosport was hobbled when a wheel nut jammed during his third pit stop, dropping him off the lead lap. Takuma Sato was unable to take the green flag after crashing his Honda in qualifying. With just two hours between qualifying and the race, his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team was unable to repair the damage in time for the early evening race start.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES resumes Independence Day weekend, on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the GMR Grand Prix on July 4.