Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Note: This new series looks back at major moments and overlooked nuggets from each NTT INDYCAR SERIES event weekend.

Scott Dixon left his NTT INDYCAR SERIES rivals dazed and dazzled in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. When he needed to save fuel, he saved more than enough. When he needed to feather the gas pedal and squeeze the push-to-pass button, he did so enough to keep Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta at bay.

The margin at the finish was .9798 of a second, but Dixon’s execution made it seem more convincing than that.

The result was Dixon’s first Long Beach victory since 2015 and the 57th series race win of his sparkling career, drawing him with 10 wins of an all-time INDYCAR SERIES record that figured to stand for all time. A.J. Foyt holds the mark, with 67 career wins.

Next up: The Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix Powered by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park. Airtime on NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network is 1 p.m. ET Sunday. The 90-lap race will officially be the third of the season, with Newgarden holding a 12-point series lead over Dixon as they respectively chase their third and record-tying seventh season championships.

But first, a look back at the key moments of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ 40th version of the Long Beach street race:

Dixon’s Goes ‘Green’ to Win

Start with Dixon’s driving masterpiece. When he followed then-leader Will Power to pit road on Lap 17, it seemed a stretch to think either or both could make it home with just one additional stop. And even if they could make it, could they in fuel-saving mode hold back the drivers on the traditional, stand-on-it strategy, a group led by Newgarden?

Newgarden, Herta and Alex Palou came charging in the second half of the race, but they were no match for Dixon, who left Power behind due to having a set of Firestone Firehawk alternate tires when Power didn’t. Power settled for a sixth-place finish.

The strategy used by Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 9 PNC Bank crew was the first big moment of the race. But when green-sidewall tires were Dixon’s advantage, his performance was pure gold, another example of being the most complete driver of his generation.

Rasmussen Brings Out Lone Caution

The caution during which Power and Dixon pitted proved to be the only one of the race, and it was necessitated by Christian Rasmussen spinning off Turn 4 in the No. 20 GuyCare Chevrolet. The series rookie had banged his Ed Carpenter Racing machine off the outside wall four corners earlier, but he didn’t know the extent of the damage. So, he tried to soldier on.

Unfortunately, Rasmussen’s spin and backward path to the right-side wall collected Jack Harvey in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who nearly squeezed through the opening that was closing too fast.

Believe it or not, the race’s single caution did not even tie the event record for fewest cautions. Four times there were none (1984, 1987, 1989 and 2016).

O’Ward, Lundgaard Penalized

Rasmussen’s incident wasn’t the day’s only trouble. There were two others of note.

Arrow McLaren took a double hit on Lap 3 when Pato O’Ward ran into the back of teammate Alexander Rossi in Turn 2. Rossi was forced to pit road with a punctured left-rear tire. O’Ward continued until being flagged for avoidable contact. Forced to drive through pit road under green was a key factor in O’Ward finishing 16th in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Rossi was reduced to a 10th-place ending in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

Arrow McLaren’s bright spot was Theo Pourchaire, who came home in 11th in his maiden series race in the team’s No. 6 Chevy. He had started 22nd and seemingly drove a flawless race. He also seemed to thoroughly enjoy this form of racing.

The other tangle was on pit road. Christian Lundgaard’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew released him into the path of Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood, the defending race winner, after his stop on Lap 17. The contact was relatively square and minor, so Lundgaard wasn’t issued a drive-through penalty, but race control required him to yield five positions, which he did.

Kirkwood finished seventh in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda; Lundgaard 23rd in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda.

Herta’s Contact on Newgarden

Newgarden and Herta had plenty to discuss once the race ended. Newgarden was leading Herta in a battle for second place – and a chance to challenge Dixon – when their cars came together in the tight Turn 11 hairpin.

Newgarden was dumbfounded and thought Herta should have been penalized. Herta conceded a mistake in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, but he said it appeared to him that Newgarden took a wide line into the corner, and that cost him momentum. Bottom line, Newgarden accepted Herta’s explanation.

Herta overtook Newgarden when the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet slowed as the anti-stall mechanism kicked in. Palou passed Newgarden in his No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, as well, and that’s the way they finished the race.

Challengers battling each other was all that Dixon needed. He had done the rest himself.