After an eleven year absence, the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers fired up their engines, and fired up the minuscule crowd at the Phoenix International Raceway just on the Southwest side of metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona.
Notwithstanding the fact that many of the race fans dressed up like empty seats at PIR, it was the “Ice Man”, Scott Dixon, who lived up to his nickname by remaining calm, cool and collected all the way to the checkers.
The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion earned his first win of the 2016 season, capturing the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Dixon notched his first career win at Phoenix International Raceway under caution after debris brought out the yellow flag two laps from the finish of the 250-lap event on the 1.022-mile oval despite the debris being on the track for more than five laps before the caution flag was thrown.
Dixon started sixth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and went on to earn the 39th win of his Indy car career, tying him with Al Unser for fourth in all-time wins. The race marked the return of the series to Phoenix International Raceway for the first time since Sam Hornish, Jr. won in 2005.
Simon Pagenaud finished second in the No. 22 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet, followed by teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who missed the season opener three weeks ago at St. Petersburg. Pagenaud took the unofficial lead in the 2016 championship with 83 points, four ahead of Dixon.
Tony Kanaan finished fourth in the No. 10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, followed by Graham Rahal, the top Honda finisher in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry.
The highest-finishing rookie was Max Chilton, who placed seventh in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race on an oval in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.
A couple of strong early frontrunners had issues in the first half of the 250-lap race! †Both were well on their way to a possible race win at Phoenix.
Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya both suffered right-front tire issues that forced them to pit from the lead. Castroneves led the first 39 laps from the pole in the No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet and Montoya, who won the St. Pete season opener, led the next 56 laps in the No. 2 Verizon Chevy.
The race winner, Dixon, was the third and final race leader, leading the field the final 155 circuits!