A hard-charging Scott Dixon had to be content with an 11th place finish in the latest round of the IndyCar championship in California today.
Takuma Sato won an action-packed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with Dixon finishing 33.6278s behind on the 11-turn street circuit.
New Zealander Dixon started off the rear of the grid, and suffered an early spin and subsequent visit to the pits in a dramatic first lap that saw Sebastian Saavedra retire after crashing on the ninth turn.
Dixon fought back to start making a move through the middle stages of the 80-lap race and pushed hard over the closing stages. His fatest time came on lap 73 as he looked to get into the top 10.
Dixon started the race second behind Brazil’s Helio Castroneves in the drivers’ standings after placing fifth and second in the first two races of the season. With Castroneves also having problems to struggle through to ninth there wasn’t too much damage to Dixon’s campaign after three of the scheduled 19 meetings.
He dropped to third, only 10 points behind Castroneves with Sato in between.
Sato is the third winner in as many races this season. He came from fourth on the grid to record the first victory by a Japanese driver.
There were some high profile casualties today, including Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe.
Dixon’s team mate Dario Franchitti had claimed his 30th career pole and led early but faded to fourth.
The real damage to Dixon’s chances was caused yesterday
Dixon had to start second to last on the 27-car grid after copping a heavy penalty from a qualifying accident.
He spun out just before turn one and sat still in the middle of the track with his motor running. Oriol Servia swerved to avoid him and crashed into a tyre barrier.
Dixon was stripped of his two fastest laps for causing the situation but wasn’t happy with the ruling.
“Tough call,” Dixon said. “Obviously, my car was still running, and I was getting ready to pull away.
“I was trying to select a gear when I was told to sit still because there was a car coming. Oriol wouldn’t know if I was trying to go backward or forward.”
The next race is in Sao Paulo, Brazil on May 5.
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