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Monday Racing Roundup: Dixon Lands 36th Career IndyCar Win at Long Beach

Through two races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon was off to his worst start since 2009.

It certainly was too early to be overly concerned, he said, following 15th- and 11th-place finishes. Maybe, but his results in eight previous starts in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – one top-five finish – wouldn’t necessarily pump up the three-time series champion's confidence entering the 80-lap race.

Qualifying third – his best on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn seaside street circuit – was a positive and overtaking Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 2 showed that the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had the pace. When Dixon beat Verizon P1 Award winner Helio Castroneves off pit lane on the first service stop on Lap 29 of 80 to take the lead, he wasn't to be denied in the race that had only one caution for four laps.

Dixon's first victory at Long Beach was his 36th overall, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. Al Unser is fourth with 39 victories. It was the 98th Indy car victory for team owner Chip Ganassi.

Castroneves was held in his pit box by chief mechanic Travis Law to avoid contact with the incoming No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet driven by Tony Kanaan. The extra second was critical. And though the crew of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California entry had a blazing second and final stop on Lap 55, Dixon was six-tenths of a second ahead of Castroneves on his out lap entering Turn 1.

Kanaan broke up a Team Penske podium sweep in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, and Dixon did the same at Long Beach.

"This is huge. I love the event, but as far as coming here and doing well it hadn't been on that list. That pit stop exchange definitely helped us get to the lead but the car was fast and all we had to do was maintain that lead," Dixon said.

Castroneves, who finished 2.2221 seconds back, forged his second consecutive runner-up finish and 37th of his career to tie Bobby Rahal for second on the all-time list (Mario Andretti with 56 is first).

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads this week to Barber Motorsports Park and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Come May, the series will be on the road course for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the famed oval for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Kenseth prevails at wet Bristol

In a race delayed and interrupted by rain, and ended in overtime, Matt Kenseth broke a drought of more than a year’s standing in Sunday’s Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race that went 11 laps past its scheduled distance of 500 laps – making it the longest race in the history of the .533-mile short track – Kenseth crossed the finish line .287 of a second ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who recovered from a succession of issues to claim the runner-up finish.

Kenseth, who inherited the top spot when Kurt Busch pitted from the lead under the ninth caution on Lap 477, stayed out front the rest of the way. He was three car lengths ahead of third-place finisher Jeff Gordon when Carl Edwards got loose underneath Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet and ignited the wreck that brought out caution No. 11 and demolished Busch’s Chevy in the process.

After a brief delay because of a late shower, a far cry from the 3-hour, 58-minute hiatus that came after the first 22 laps, Kenseth pulled away on a green-white-checkered-flag restart and was unchallenged to the finish, as Johnson got past Gordon for second.

The victory was Kenseth’s fourth at Bristol, his most at any track, and the 32nd of his career. Kenseth broke a 51-race winless streak dating to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire in September 2013. The win all but locks up Kenseth's spot in the Chase.

"It feels good to be back here," Kenseth said, sitting at the dais for the winner’s press conference. "Really, honestly, it does, it wears on you a little bit. We had such a good 2013 (seven victories), we came a little short of the ultimate prize there, but we had such a great season, and last year there were some races we had some chances to win and just things wouldn't line up for us.

"We just couldn't get it to happen. Tonight was kind of the opposite. Everything worked out. We had a good car on the short run, not so good on the last 40 or 50 laps of the run, and we had all them cautions and short runs at the end that really benefitted us."

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race on July 26 at IMS in the Crown Royal presents “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard.

MotoGP: Rossi scores second win of season in Argentina

Valentino Rossi gambled on the right tire choice to take his 84th MotoGP victory on Sunday as Marc Marquez crashed out of the race in Argentina.

Conditions were similar to Saturday’s qualifying with bright sunshine and a track temperature of 98 degrees. Despite that, Repsol Honda’s Marquez, along with CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, decided at the last minute to switch to the hard-compound rear tire, unlike the Movistar Yamahas of Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who went with the extra hard option. This would prove to be a crucial decision later on in the race, as tire life would play a huge role at the Termas de Rio Hondo.

Aleix Espargaro led the pack into Turn 1 on the Team Suzuki Ecstar, but it didn’t take long for Marquez to make his move for the lead, with the reigning MotoGP World Champion going on to lead by .8 of a second at the end of the first lap.

Marquez took advantage of his hard tire’s extra grip early on in the race to extend his lead to over 4 seconds, all the while though Rossi was making his move through the field. “The Doctor” moved into second place at the expense of Dovizioso on the Ducati Team GP15 with 15 laps to go, having started back in eighth on the grid.

Rossi then set about hunting down Marquez, as the Spaniard’s tire performance started to fall away, and it suddenly became apparent he would be able to catch the Honda. Rossi caught him with two laps to go but Marquez was not going to let the Italian pass him without a fight, and in the ensuing battle the riders touched a couple of times, before Marquez clipped the back of Rossi’s bike and crashed out of the race. Race direction ruled it as a “racing incident” and took no further action.

Rossi won by more than five seconds and said afterward that the key to his success was not caring about Marquez’s tire choic, and just focusing on his own.

“It was a shame that he crashed, but for me he made a mistake because Marc is a rider who will always go all-in,” Rossi said. “When I braked he touched me once, then again, and then he crashed. It was a shame as it could have been a good battle to the end.”

MotoGP will compete at Indianapolis on Aug. 9 in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

NASCAR XFINITY Series: Logano leads every lap at Bristol

Joey Logano was enjoying such a perfect day at Bristol Motor Speedway that the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford kept expecting something to go wrong.

It never did.

Logano led all 300 laps of Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at the .533-mile short track, a record for laps led in a NASCAR XFINITY Series race. It was the first time a driver led every lap in a single race since Kyle Busch accomplished the feat in winning at Richmond on Sept. 5, 2014.

The victory was Logano’s second of the season, his second at Bristol (and his second straight dating back to his last start at Thunder Valley in 2012) and the 23rd of his career.

The XFINITY Series comes to IMS on July 25 for the Lilly Diabetes 250.

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