Long Beach Grand Prix Indycar 2024

Dixon Risks It All For The Win

April 21, 2024

motorsport journalist

Janis Adams

Motorsport Journalist

When the green flag went out, it was Felix Rosenqvist leading the helm, joining him was Will Power in the front row for the Long Beach Grand Prix, with would-be winner Scott Dixon barely making it to the top ten with a starting position of 8th.

The course, with its insane hairpin turn, had glitches and obstacles not just with the layout of the track but with the street conditions causing drivers to face spots where the road took control and they had to answer.

A MAGICIAN ON THE TRACK

It wasn’t just driving skill that won the Long Beach race it was a decision between race strategies that set the stage for a winning run for Scott Dixon.

Going for his 57th career win, second only to A.J. Foyt who holds the record for first place podiums at 67, Dixon was like a magician with with a trick up his sleeve.

Not only did he win but he did it with fuel to spare affording him an applause filled run around the track before celebrating with the shower of champagne.

THE BATTLE OF STRATEGIES AT THE 85-LAP BEACH PARTY

WIth over a record high of 194k people in attendance over the three day event, those in who were there for the Sunday race were privy to a battle of high stakes wit and strategies.

It wasn’t just the speed or the drivers or the race car that in the end pulled out the win, it was a two verses three pitstop plan.

Those who went with the two stop strategy by far bested those who went with the three stops on pit lane.

Herta said it best when he stated that Indy Car Races are not all just speed. 

There is way more to this sport, and much of the drama - other than crashes - lies in one teams strategy over another’s - the audiences were thrilled and holding with bated breath to see who made it to the podium for 2024.

THE BEGINNING THAT DIDN’T FORESHADOW THE END

The early laps of the race were dominated by Will Power as he grabbed an early lead over the other drivers and who after ten laps had a comfortable gap of five seconds over the rest of the field.

At the start of the race, the optimal plan looked to be to pit between the 19th and the 28th lap for drivers to maintain their momentum and also pull out of the pit on strategy, with stops following stints running from laps 18-51 and from 52-85.

However, Dixon opted for a crazy run that only he could pull off which other drivers saying only he could pull off.

Instead while others were staying on the track, he pitted at the end of lap 17. Dixon, second time Long Beach winner, committed to an alternate strategy when the caution flew for Christian Rasmussen found his way into the wall. This crash also caused damage to Jack Harvey.

Power lost the lead on the restart to Championship leader, Josef Newgarden. After a stop for Newgarden, it was Scott Dixon who got the lead. However, the race began to settle down a bit with new strategies being develop with fuel and tire saving occurring.

TWO v. THREE PUNCH, WHO WILL WIN

On lap 51 Dixon chose, with this crew, to extend his fuel after his last pitstop. Holding off Hertz with less than 1 second he took a gamble and went for his 57th career win, second only to the famed A.J. Foyt who holds the record at 67 win.

Having to conserve fuel for about the final 30 laps while those behind him made strong pushes to overtake him, Dixon gave viewers a great thrill, wondering could he even even finish the race on the fuel he had. Would he be stuck trackside out of fuel, wondered the crowds.

Despite having to run lean, saving fuel while maintaining huge momentum, the six-time champion was able to hold Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta.

This was Dixon’s second time claiming the checkered flag in Long Beach, with his first win back in 2015. Santa Clarita native Colton Herta came in second and Alex Palou, fthe native of Spain, came in third.

RISKY STRATEGY WINS THE GRAND PRIX 

Drivers who didn’t come in and grab a post on the podium offered their take on why they didn’t find success when the flag dropped.

Satino Ferrucci stated regarding his run, that he had good pace,  but that his team opted for the strategy that didn’t end up working out.  He threw no fault at anyone, including engineers and his pit crew, who supported his run.

Admittedly, this is part of racing, it is not just the speed of the car as many would think. It is a long list of winning factors - and sometimes it is just pure strategy and risk.

Herta, the 2022 winner at Long Beach, gave Dixon credit in how he had meted out his fuel so perfectly and he also attributed his lack of a win to was in part due down to grip.

Despite having to run lean, saving fuel while maintaining huge momentum, the six-time champion was able to hold off everything that Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta were able to throw at him in the final stint and score his 57th victory.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

With other drivers stating they could not have pulled off what Dixon did, it seems that all hailed him and his steely strategy.

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