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Pit Road Penalty Extends Indy 500 Bad Luck Streak for Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon’s dominant Indianapolis 500 performance fell apart with only 25 laps to go on Sunday, May 29.

Dixon put together a massive run in qualifying on May 22, the fastest pole run in Indy 500 history with a four-lap average speed of 234.06 mpg. The New Zealander was clearly the man to beat for most of the day, and 14 years after his sole 500 win, things looked to finally be coming together for Dixon.

But peeling off from the lead on lap 176, Dixon locked up under braking on pit entry and was caught by a speeding penalty, earning the 2008 winner a drive through penalty. This effectively ended Dixon’s race less than 40 laps after he surpassed Al Unser for the record of most laps led in Indy 500 history.

Dixon’s relationship with the 500 has often historically been bittersweet. The 2022 running marks the six-time champion’s 20th appearance in the greatest spectacle in racing. Through those 20 attempts Dixon has secured one win (2008), five pole positions (2008, 2015, 2017, 2021, 2022) and three runner-up finishes (2007, 2012, 2020).

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Dixon led to the white flag in 2007 but ran out of fuel with less than a quarter lap to go, coasting to a second-place finish.

Dixon led the most laps in the 2009 500 but was passed on a late restart by Helio Castroneves. Dixon had to settle for sixth that day.

In 2012 Dixon was running in third as Takuma Sato attacked Franchitti into turn one on the final lap. Sato broke loose under Franchitti and spun nose first into the turn one wall. The turbulence and light contact from Sato cost Franchitti a massive amount of momentum, with Dixon closing rapidly.

Franchitti’s third Indianapolis 500 win was saved by the yellow flag waving before Dixon had a proper chance to attack.

2017 yielded another pole position for Dixon, and his race was generally uneventful. On lap 53, a heavily damaged Jay Howard drifted into Dixon’s path in the short chute between turns 1 and 2. The resulting contact launched Dixon over Howard and into the air at over 210 mph.

Dixon landed sidepod first on the inside wall, which ripped the car in half and left the cockpit and nose spinning across the track. While Dixon was unharmed, a 20 minute red flag ensued.

Dixon performed mightily in a pandemic delayed 2020 Indianapolis 500, battling with 2017 winner Sato for the last 50 laps of the race.

Dixon’s No. 9 car clearly had the pace to take the fight to Sato and then some. However, with fuel being a concern, Dixon opted to run in Sato’s draft for much of the race’s final quarter. When Spencer Pigot spun in turn four on lap 195 and subsequently slammed into the pit lane attenuator, race control was faced with an impossible decision.

With sundown rapidly approaching and the attenuator essentially destroyed, IndyCar was forced to end the race under caution as there was no time to properly repair the pit lane entrance before nightfall. This decision ended the 2020 Indy 500 in the hands of Sato and handed Dixon his third runner-up finish.

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In 2021, Dixon put on an immaculate qualifying run to take his fourth career 500 pole. Despite running very well in the opening phase of the race, Dixon’s fuel ran out when the field was trapped on track under caution due to the pits being closed.

A once promising day ended in 17th with seven laps led on the day.

Through his 20 Indianapolis 500 attempts, Dixon boasts an average starting position of seventh and an average finish of 11th. Despite the fierce competition and unpredictability of the historic race, the statistics betray Dixon’s performances at the speedway.

Dixon will turn 42 years old on July 22. The previous two Indianapolis 500 winners pre-2022 have aged 43 and 46. Dixon’s ability is certainly not in doubt, and certainly Ganassi will be happy to kept a six time champion in the ranks.

Only time will tell if Dixon can secure that elusive second 500 win.

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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