Dixon emerges through carnage to win Laguna Seca finale


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Scott Dixon did it again: After taking a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact in the first lap of the race, Dixon went onto an alternate strategy and emerged as the winner in a calamitous final round of the 2023 IndyCar Series at Laguna Seca Raceway.

Dixon’s drive-through penalty came after a chain reaction crash in the first corner on the first lap – when Dixon and Colton Herta made contact that sent Dixon into Rinus VeeKay, and caused VeeKay to spin out. Behind them, Christian Lundgaard received a drive-through for kicking off a multi-car collision which wiped Graham Rahal out of the race and took his rookie team mate Juri Vips out of contention for the day.

Alex Palou took control of the race from the ensuing restart. Josef Newgarden spun and crashed at turn four on lap 9. Newgarden returned to the race after damage repairs but finished 22nd, four laps off the lead. Dixon served his drive-through penalty on lap 13 then pitted on lap 17 to switch strategies.

Palou was building a commanding ten-second lead before a string of incidents, that began on lap 29 with a collision between polesitter Felix Rosenqvist and his countryman Marcus Ericsson. Palou came to the pits before IndyCar race control called for a Safety Car, and he would continue to lead after the restart on lap 39 was effectively waved off for a multi-car collision at the final corner before the start-finish line.

The race then turned out of Palou’s favour after another collision at turn four between Devlin DeFrancesco and David Malukas, which sent Malukas into the gravel. Pato O’Ward, who was second behind Palou, had pitted before the incident but Palou couldn’t come into the pits in time to cover the caution flag.

O’Ward was now out in front, ahead of Armstrong, and Dixon who had come back to third place.

On lap 62, there was another multi-car pileup at the last corner before a restart, which took rookie Tom Blomqvist out of the race; Palou also got hit from behind by Santino Ferrucci, but Ferrucci came away with worse damage than the two-time series champion. It was during the ensuing Safety Car when Dixon made his final pit stop, while O’Ward stayed out for track position.

This was followed by yet another restart incident at the last corner on lap 68, and then on lap 74, the field finally completed one clean green-flag lap before Helio Castroneves ran into Colton Herta at turn four. Herta’s car subsequently retired due to damage, resigning the one-time AlphaTauri F1 prospect to a winless 2023 season.

Finally, the carnage ended in the final 20 laps, and O’Ward’s challenge for the win ended when he needed one more stop to get to the end of the race. Dixon cycled to the lead and never looked back, for his 56th career IndyCar win and his third of the season. On top of all this, it’s worth mentioning that Dixon also had to take a six-place grid penalty before the start for an unapproved engine change.

Scott McLaughlin overcame two significant penalties during the race himself, for causing a collision with Ferrucci, but he eventually finished in second and secured third in the 2023 IndyCar championship standings.

Palou, who led 51 out of the 95 laps on the day, still salvaged a third-place finish despite the poorly timed Safety Car intervention that knocked him out of contention for the win. It was his tenth podium of 2023, to cap off what may be the greatest individual season by an IndyCar driver since the reunification of the sport in 2008.

For Will Power, a fourth-place finish brought to an end an incredible streak of 16 seasons with a race victory. Power, like McLaughlin, also had to overcome two penalties when he caused the lap 39 pileup at the last corner.

Callum Ilott finished a season-best fifth, but the young Brit could have finished on the podium if he’d not run wide at Rainey Curve in the closing laps. Despite running critically low on fuel, Ilott was able to hold off Lundgaard in sixth, and Alexander Rossi in seventh, over the line.

Armstrong, in the wars all day, survived to finish eighth and with it, he secured the 2023 IndyCar Rookie of the Year award. Agustin Canapino, his sole remaining rival for the honour, was having a career-best race and ran as high as third, until front wing damage caused the Argentine driver to tumble down the order and finish 14th.

Pato O’Ward finished in ninth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished in the top ten for the first time since he was appointed by Ed Carpenter Racing to take over the number 20 car.

The tenth-place finish for Hunter-Reay, and the 14th for Canapino, were enough for the ECR number 20 car and the number 78 car of Juncos Hollinger Racing to get the final two places in the top 22 in the IndyCar Entrants’ Championship and a $910,000 USD bonus payout for securing status in the IndyCar Leaders’ Circle.

Romain Grosjean was 11th in his final race for Andretti, his incoming replacement, Ericsson, was 15th. Castroneves, in his last start as a full-time IndyCar driver, was 13th despite being caught up in incidents.

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Grand Prix of Monterey race results

Position Car Driver Team Engine
1 9 Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda
2 3 Scott McLaughlin Penske Chevrolet
3 10 Alex Palou Ganassi Honda
4 12 Will Power Penske Chevrolet
5 77 Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet
6 45 Christian Lundgaard RLL Honda
7 7 Alexander Rossi McLaren Chevrolet
8 11 Marcus Armstrong Ganassi Honda
9 5 Pato O’Ward McLaren Chevrolet
10 20 Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter Chevrolet
11 28 Romain Grosjean Andretti Honda
12 51 Sting Ray Robb Coyne/RWR Honda
13 06 Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank Honda
14 78 Agustin Canapino Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet
15 8 Marcus Ericsson Ganassi Honda
16 55 Benjamin Pedersen Foyt Chevrolet
17 14 Santino Ferrucci Foyt Chevrolet
18 21 Rinus VeeKay Carpenter Chevrolet
19 6 Felix Rosenqvist McLaren Chevrolet
20 18 David Malukas Coyne/HMD Honda
21 29 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Honda
22 2 Josef Newgarden Penske Chevrolet
23 26 Colton Herta Andretti Honda
24 30 Juri Vips RLL Honda
25 27 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Honda
26 60 Tom Blomqvist Meyer Shank Honda
27 15 Graham Rahal RLL Honda


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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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11 comments on “Dixon emerges through carnage to win Laguna Seca finale”

  1. Pretty ugly race

    1. Ugly? You don’t like racing, do you? It was fantastic.

      1. That wasn’t racing. That was a wreckfest mess that highlights the reason so many question the quality of drivers and driving standards in indycar.

        I want to see racing, Not drivers driving poorly and causing EIGHT cautions. That was just a mess which shouldn’t be excused.

      2. Yeah that was a wreckfest, poor driving standards throughout and the usual IndyCar yellow flag / pit stop shuffle decided the race. Not what we want to see

      3. The number of laps under yellow was insane. I don’t watch motorsport to see the pace car leading a train of single seater. Although frustrating, not Indycar’s fault as some of the driving was at best questionable. When you see marshalls frantically pouring petrol into the pace car due to how often it was used then that should tell you something.

        I’m biased but O’Ward just couldn’t catch a break in 2023 as a whole. Hopefully he has more luck next year.

  2. CD (@clipperdael)
    11th September 2023, 7:36

    I suppose the drivers went, eh, sod it, championship’s decided anyway, let’s all get drunk before the start? It would explain much of the driving standards that went down.

    1. Obviously none of the drivers were drunk, so your explanation is nonsensical.
      The new asphalt was super slippery outside of the driving line, that’s all it was.

  3. I’m gonna be contrary here, and say I actually really enjoyed that. Especially given the snooze fests of a couple recent Laguna Seca races. Yes, there were too many yellows, from too many mistakes, but in the “so bad it’s funny” realm. The actual action in-between was actually very good, with lots of close racing. Strategy kind of went out the window, but at the same time, it allowed Dixon and McLoughlin podiums that they had no real right to after their early penalties.
    I think the fact that there were few thinks still undecided and so many folk racing for drives with everything to prove, led to people taking more risks, but also people were being possibly over brave with the new tarmac and potential opportunities that would bring.

  4. Congratulations to the author for managing to condense that down into a coherent article! Enjoyable race to watch, purely because of the madness. There were also some exciting overtaking moves with a lot of drivers clearly feeling freer to just go for it.

  5. Yes it was a wreck fest, but very entertaining. Last race of the season, the title already wrapped up, they just gave her hell… Dixon certainly has a way of winning. Quite amazing.

  6. I was glad Dixon won again. That is good.

    Thank you RJ O’Connell for your articles.

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