Target will not return as a sponsor in 2017, however its longtime driver for Chip Ganassi Racing Scott Dixon appears determined to end the superstore chain’s 26-year association with Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team on a very positive note. Case in point was shown in full on Sunday afternoon in upstate New York as the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion went nearly flag to flag to win the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen.
After taking the Verizon P1 Award in record time during Saturday qualifications at the 3.4 mile, 11-turn layout, Dixon took control early and rarely faced a serious challenge to his control of the proceedings despite varying pit strategies and caution flag scenarios that shuffled the chasers that pursued him. Early on in Sunday’s 60-lap distance, one of those challengers was Team Penske’s Will Power who entered the action second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, only 28 points behind teammate Simon Pagenaud, who has held the top spot on the table for several months.
Although Dixon got the gold, the biggest loser on Sunday may have been Power as the Australian stayed with the New Zealander in the early going and remained in the top five until lap 39, when contact with Dixon’s CGR teammate Charlie Kimball sent the Verizon Wireless Chevrolet into the outer guardrail at the very fast fourth turn right-hander. The incident ended Power’s race prematurely and while the veteran did not suffer any injuries in the shunt, it may end up being the final nail in the coffin in his hopes to win his second IndyCar Series championship in the past three seasons.
In contrast, while Pagenaud never made a serious run at the front runners from the start of Sunday’s action, his seventh place finish adds another 16 points to his championship advantage, meaning the Frenchman now holds a 44-point lead on Will Power, who as a result of his failure to finish was credited with a 20th place finish. While the difference does not secure the title for Pagenaud as double points will be at stake in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway later this month, assuming the Frenchman places fifth or better Power would be unable to catch his teammate for the title, even if he managed to win the event. There is however, another interesting scenario that exists for Sonoma if Power wins and Pagenaud finishes sixth. If that were to occur, the two drivers would finish tied in terms of total points, however the Australian would win the championship as he would have more victories.
As for those not involved in the championship race, Dixon’s victory margin of 16 seconds stands as one of the largest winning margins in 2016, as Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden finished second on Sunday bouncing back from a DNF suffered at the previously delayed Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Although not in the hunt for the outright championship as opposed to his two teammates, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was also solid on Sunday to finish third, while Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly made the biggest improvement from his starting position coming from 17th to place fourth at the checkered flag.