This is part 2 of a 3-part series on Live Full Throttle, looking back on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season as we approach the finale weekend at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
The only double-header on the schedule takes place in Detroit every summer and will continue to do so for many years to come, thanks to the city’s affirmative vote for the event this year. Scott Dixon won the first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, marking his 42nd career win. While Dixon’s team celebrated the win with a banner, Hunter-Reay celebrated his race win the following day with a dip in the Belle Isle fountain! A fair reaction, given that it was his first win since Pocono in 2015.
Dixon would add another win to his tally when he raced to the lead at Texas Motor Speedway under the lights at the DXC Technology 600. The event sponsor also sponsored Simon Pagenaud, who ended up P2 after a great battle with Alexander Rossi. Rossi finished P3, and this shared podium with Dixon is really where the championship battle started to suss out. Dixon was in the lead after Texas, with Rossi second in points.
The Kohler Grand Prix at Road America marked the first caution-free contest of the year. The names of the weekend were all heavy-hitters in 2018. Newgarden took both the pole and the win for the second time this year, and he was joined on the podium by Hunter-Reay and Dixon. Finishing well ahead of Rossi allowed Dixon to hold on to the points lead and extend the gap between himself and the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner.
The last Iowa Corn 300 under the sun (because we go back to Saturday night racing in 2019!) yielded some unexpected but welcome results this past July. Hinchcliffe claimed his first win since New Orleans in 2015, while Spencer Pigot earned his first career podium and Takuma Sato put up his best finish since his 2017 Indianapolis 500 victory.
Next, we headed north of the border to race at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dixon earned his first win on the streets of Toronto, with Pagenaud matching his best result of the season in P2. A very happy Robert Wickens made the podium as well, and to the delight of his hometown crowd. Pagenaud and Wickens had one heck of a battle for P2 towards the end of the Honda Indy Toronto, and though it had social media in an uproar, arguing who was right and who was wrong, the race stewards saw it all as good, hard racing. Both drivers felt the same way, as evidenced in their post-race press conference comments. Pagenaud lost his sunglasses somewhere between the podium celebration and the media center, and when WIckens came in the room, he produced them from his pocket saying, “Hey man, I think you dropped these.” Good racing, good drivers, good people… there’s no mystery as to why this is my favorite racing series.
Wickens would continue with his podium earnings at the next race on the schedule – my hometown event (until the series puts Cleveland back on the schedule), the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Unbeknownst to all of us, this would be Wickens last complete race of the year. He shared the podium with Will Power in P3, and race winner Alexander Rossi – who started from pole. Though Rossi finished 4 positions higher than Dixon, it wasn’t enough to take the points lead from The Iceman. Mid-Ohio was the second caution-free race of the 2018 IndyCar season.