IndyCar great Scott Dixon has record-breaking day while adding 54th career win

AP photo by Darron Cummings / Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon, left, celebrates with the team owner after winning Saturday's Gallagher Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dixon's 54th career win was also his 200th podium finish, and it came in his record-breaking 319th consecutive IndyCar start.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Iceman became the Ironman of IndyCar on Saturday. Capped it off with a win, too.

Scott Dixon kept his cool after getting spun around on the opening lap of the Gallagher Grand Prix, used Graham Rahal's late pit stop to take the lead on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then held off the hard-charging pole winner for his first victory of the season by less than second.

Dixon's 54th career win, No. 2 on the all-time list for North American's top open-wheel circuit, was part of another milestone day. The six-time series champion has won at least one race in 19 consecutive IndyCar seasons, extending his own record, and it came on the day he made his 319th consecutive start, breaking free of Tony Kanaan for sole possession of the series record.

"Crazy day for me, I thought I had a fantastic start, picked up about five spots, and then got to (turn) seven and there was a bit of a backup there and just got spun around," said Dixon, who had the 200th podium finish of his career. "So now I can say a spin and win, which is pretty cool."

It's another remarkable chapter in Dixon's incredible career.

Only A.J. Foyt has won more races (67) or more series championships (seven) than Dixon, who has done it all with Chip Ganassi Racing over 22 seasons as the longest-tenured driver in team history. While the trips to victory lane rarely come easily for the 42-year-old from New Zealand, Dixon always seems to find a creative way to stay in contention.

It happened again Saturday after an early collision that sent Dixon to pit road on the fifth lap. He spent the rest of the race running a different strategy than the other cars, a move that eventually helped him stay in contention after qualifying 15th.

"We're going against the best ever, right? I mean it's what, 20 straight seasons or 19?" said Rahal, who ended a six-year drought Friday when he qualified for the pole position but failed to snap his six-year victory drought. "It's ridiculous, it's absolutely insane."

Rahal clearly posed the biggest obstacle after he pitted with 23 laps to go, and Dixon took the lead. Rahal spent the rest of the race chasing Dixon, steadily cutting the gap. With 10 laps remaining, the 34-year-old from Ohio trailed by 2.9084 seconds. With five to go, it was down to 1.5078, and with two left, Rahal was within 0.2687 second before running into trouble.

"On the second-to-last lap, I wasn't gaining ground, I was just pulling dead even, and I couldn't make the lunge," said Rahal, who wound up finishing 0.4779 behind.

Dixon managed to prevent Rahal from ever getting a chance to pass at the end, and the victory moved him ahead of two-time series champ Josef Newgarden and into second place in the race for the season championship. Dixon is 101 points behind Alex Palou, who finished seventh in the race and increased his advantage in the standings by 17 points.

"It's very hard to win, so you're constantly changing, chasing a moving target, which is fun," Dixon said. "I think that's what keeps you inspired, especially when you have a great team."

Rahal's qualifying runs may have proved costly Saturday, too. He said one of the tires from Friday developed a blister, leaving him a set short. That meant he went with the used red tires for his final run.

"I was worried a little last night because we didn't have three sets of red (tires) because we had a blister on the right front," he said. "Not really sure why, there wasn't a flat spot or anything, but unfortunately that made it unusable today ... and I knew that meant the two middle stints on black, I was going to have to drive the wheels off."

Pato O'Ward finished on the podium for the sixth time this season -- he's still seeking his first win of 2023 -- while Christian Lundgaard and Alexander Rossi closed out the top five. O'Ward and Rossi both drive for Arrow McLaren, while Lundgaard is a teammate of Rahal's at Rahal Letterman Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Newgarden failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying Friday, and his struggles continued Saturday. IndyCar announced an unapproved engine change would cost the Team Penske driver six starting spots, dropping him to 25th on the 27-car grid.

Then he got caught up in the same first-lap pileup that caused Dixon to spin. The result: Newgarden wound up 25th while losing even more ground to Palou, who started the day with an 84-point lead over him. With three races left, this year's Indianapolis 500 winner is third with a deficit of 105 points.

The series is off before finishing the season with three consecutive weeks of racing starting Aug. 27 at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Then it's on to Portland, Oregon, after that before closing out in Monterey, California.