By Jenna Fryer
TORONTO: Scott Dixon pulled off a weekend sweep through the streets of Toronto that has made him a sudden championship contender.
Dixon was barely challenged at Exhibition Place, needing to pull off two late restarts to preserve what was otherwise an easy Sunday drive.
It was his third consecutive win — in seven days — and it vaulted Dixon from seventh in the standings before last week’s race at Pocono to second behind series leader Helio Castroneves.
Next up for IndyCar? An Aug. 4 race at Mid-Ohio, where Dixon is the defending winner.
“What a turnaround in a couple weeks,” said Dixon, who was winless a week ago but broke through at Pocono for his first victory of the year.
Now he can’t be stopped and Sunday’s win, the 32nd of his career, moved Dixon into sole possession of seventh on the all-time wins list. His victory Saturday moved him into a tie with teammate Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy, but the 32-year-old New Zealander is on the hunt for much more.
His sweep of the Toronto doubleheader also earned Dixon a $100,000 bonus from IndyCar sponsor Sonax.
“$100 grand is good, but I’d rather have the points. Points are why we’re here,” said Dixon, who moved ahead of Franchitti by one victory to become the winningest active driver in IndyCar.
In the more important points race, Dixon now trails leader Castroneves by 29 points with six races remaining. Castroneves finished second but had nothing in his Chevrolet to challenge the Honda driven by Dixon, who started from the pole.
“They were in a different league, Scott and Ganassi guys, I was pushing,” Castroneves said. “Whatever he is taking for breakfast, I want it. Scott, tell me what you’re having for breakfast. Let’s be realistic — the guy was leading the whole race, 13 seconds ahead.”
Bourdais was third for his second podium finish of the weekend after not finishing in the top-three in American open-wheel since 2007. On Saturday, his second-place trophy slipped off its pedestal and shattered as he was presented with it on the podium. Sunday was a successful handoff as Bourdais picked up the trophy without a pedestal.
Bourdais managed his finish without having a single push-to-pass to rely on inside his car, and passed Power on the final restart with three laps remaining to grab his podium finish.
“It was really hard, and it was from seventh place,” Bourdais said. “Things just turned our way. I was hooked up.”
Toronto native James Hinchcliffe had a rough weekend — an issue with his throttle prevented him from starting the race with the rest of the field. He finished 21st, four laps behind the leaders.
“The throttle stuck, it’s pretty simple,” said Hinchcliffe, who watched as his crew tried to use WD40 to get the throttle free. “Unfortunately that wasn’t the magic fix, and we had to replace the pedal and went three laps down right off the bat. Obviously gutted for the team and for GoDaddy, but more than anyone for the fans.”