A red flag halted the event 45 laps into a race that was scheduled for 90 laps and shortened to 60.
Belle Isle's 2.07-mile road course that hadn't hosted a race since 2008 had chunks of asphalt and concrete missing. Pot holes and grooves that were recently filled with tar became exposed. Crews filled the gaps with epoxy that settled enough for the race to resume.
The sprint to the finish was stunted by a caution flag because light rain made a slick track even more slippery. Helio Castroneves spun out as if his car was on a skating rink and finished 17th.
Dixon pulled away after the final restart on lap 55 for his first win of the season, almost 2 seconds in front of teammate Dario Franchitti. The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion made many moves in limited time after starting toward the back of the pack in the 25-car field.
Simon Pagenaud finished third, followed by Will Power, who began the race as the IndyCar points leader.
Dixon, a two-time series champion and 28-time winner, earned his first pole on Saturday. He took advantage of starting first on a track that doesn't give many opportunities to pass and led from start to finish.
The series was hoping to build off momentum created by an entertaining Indy 500 last week, which almost matched NASCAR's TV rating on the same day, but drama off the track and a poor performance didn't seem to help.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard confirmed swirling speculation about discord that included a post on his Twitter account two days after the sport's signature event that indicated a team owner was trying to get him fired.
Bernard wanted the story Sunday to be about the race in the Motor City.
That didn't turn out to be good news, either.
Dixon wasn't challenged much before the red flag, building a 10-second lead, on a road course that had just nine lead changes combined in 2007 and 2008.
The first sign of trouble with the track came when James Hinchcliffe lost control because of a huge divot in the road and ran into a tire barrier when he was on lap 39. Hinchcliffe, who had finished among the first six in the previous five races this year, shook his head when he got out of his car and took a look at one of the many problems on the track under the first yellow flag.