A great day for racing presented itself this morning at Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama with just enough cloud cover to provide a little respite from the sun. Alabama has been a happy hunting ground for Dixon who, although he has never won there, has placed second six times and third twice.
Kiwi racers Scott Dixon starting from fifth and Scott McLaughlin starting his first full season from twelfth, both starting on the softer red tyres.
The first half of the lap was uneventful until ex-champion Joseph Newgarden lost control on a crest spinning to the middle of the track where he was cleaned up by a number of cars with Herta, Rosenqvist, Chilton and Ryan Hunter-Reay all either losing laps or going out completely.
Dixon was ahead of the carnage that developed behind him but Newgarden’s spin happened right in front of Mclaughlin who instinctively jinked right to miss his spinning teammate, somehow remaining in control despite clipping the grass at the edge of the track.
Shortly after the lap 8 restart, Jimmie Johnson had a lazy spin after being affected by the disturbed airflow from a car that had just passed him. This caused another full-course caution.
Leader Pato O’Ward was complaining of trouble with rear grip and pitted early on lap 19. Scott Mclaughlin pitted on lap 26 moving onto the harder, longer lasting black tyres. Dixon waited until lap 32 which mixed the strategies up a bit.
The middle portion of the race settled down with O’Ward pitting again on lap 42 but was nearly taken out by Sebastian Bourdais on the re-join, with Mclaughlin coming in much earlier than expected the lap after. Dixon pitted out of a solid 3rd place on lap 62.
Alex Palou, another up and comer, who has this year been signed by Scott Dixon’s Ganassi team cycled to the front and in the closing laps fought valiantly to keep Australian Will Power behind.
With two laps to go there was only two seconds separating Palou in the lead and Dixon in third. Meanwhile, Mclaughlin in fourteenth was battling to overtake Japanese journeyman Sato, but couldn’t get it done, finishing the race just over one minute behind the winner in what was a solid showing for his new team.
Palou’s win, a first for him, and on debut for his new team will be a sure sign of vindication for Chip Ganassi having put his faith in the young man from Spain.
Will Power finished second and our own Scott Dixon claimed another third position to add to the total.
The next race is at St Petersberg Florida in only one week’s time, a race that Scott Mclaughlin competed in last year at the end of the Covid affected season.
So a good start for the Kiwi’s, a decent points haul for Dixon which will hold him in good stead leading into a very busy, three races in three weeks April/May and a solid start for Mclaughlin.
Keep up the good work boys.
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