SONOMA, Calif. -- Scott Dixon was the surprising winner of Sunday's Verizon IndyCar Series race at Sonoma Raceway, and yet he wasn't, a fellow series champion said.
"He's one of the best," Ryan Hunter-Reay said of Dixon after the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver won the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. "He's a player any given week."
Dixon started third and had won at this track in 2007, but everyone expected series leader Will Power to dominate Sunday's race from the pole.
Power had won three of the past four races at the 12-turn, 2.385-mile circuit. Power dominated until spinning mid-race in Turn 7.
Always excellent with fuel mileage, Dixon worked his conservation magic again, finishing as the tanks of other contenders -- including Graham Rahal, who led 18 laps -- went dry.
Dixon added that the decision to save a new set of faster red tires for the final segment was another key to the win, helping him pass Mike Conway on lap 83 of 85 after Rahal ran out of fuel.
"It was really tough with so many strategies, and they were broad ones and some were very close (on fuel)," he said. "The race was really between us, Hunter-Reay and the 20 car, (Mike) Conway."
Hunter-Reay finished second with Simon Pagenaud third. Conway, who led 20 laps, ran out of fuel coming to the finish and wound up 14th.
Dixon scored his 35th career win, tying Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time list.
"I've been watching Scott since he started racing Indy cars when he was real young and he was successful almost immediately," Unser said via statement from his Pagosa Springs, Colo., home. "He's truly a great driver and drives with a lot of vigor. I am happy for Scott and at his young age I am sure he'll get another win or lots to pass our 35 Indy car wins we now share. ... I am betting he'd win in anything he runs, if given the chance."
Dixon has long said he'll review records at retirement, but he conceded this mark is a big deal.
"It's pretty crazy to think you're on a short list with only Unsers, Andrettis and (A.J.) Foyt ahead of us," he said. "That's cool."
Foyt leads the list with 67 wins with Mario Andretti second at 52. Michael Andretti posted 42, Al Unser 39.
Dixon has the lead among active drivers by three over Sebastien Bourdais. Helio Castroneves has 29.