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.
But 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.
“It sucks for everyone that came out today. We were hoping for better in my hometown. But we weren’t going to give up — I wanted to go out, finish the race and get any points we could.”
Carlos Munoz, who got a call from Panther Racing late Saturday night to replace Ryan Briscoe because Briscoe broke his right wrist, finished 17th. It was the second IndyCar race of the 21-year-old Colombian’s career, first on a road course.
“It was a long race and a hard race for me,” Munoz said. “It was basically my first time in an Indy car on a street course and I didn’t know what to expect to be in a race here with so many cars out there. We continued to drop lap times and I got more and more comfortable with each lap, and by the end we put together quite a good lap — which are all positive things.”
Franchitti, who had third place stripped of him Saturday and then restored after a penalty, was fourth as Target Chip Ganassi Racing has seemed to turn itself around over the last week. Winless until Pocono, Dixon and Franchitti are formidable threats again.
E.J. Viso was fifth and the highest finishing Andretti Autosport driver after defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was involved in an accident on the final restart with Will Power that took both Hunter-Reay and Power out of contention for third place.
“I talked to (Power) and he just said he got loose on the bottom and he just drove right up into us,” Hunter-Reay said. “I don’t think he drove into me on purpose, but we were taken out of the race. We had a good day going and had a decent car.”
Charlie Kimball was sixth as Ganassi’s three drivers claimed three of the top six spots.
Mike Conway, in a return for Dale Coyne Racing after winning at Detroit in June, was seventh and followed by teammate Justin Wilson. Marco Andretti and Canadian driver Alex Tagliani rounded out the top 10.