It takes wins and podiums to win the NTT IndyCar Series championship, but it also is about salvaging the most out of a tough weekend.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon has won 52 races on the way to six titles, but his lesser-known superpower is that he’s able to make the most out of an off weekend. The Kiwi has a long history of maximizing points even when things don’t go his way.
That was the case this weekend at Road America, as Dixon suffered through an awful Saturday (June 17) in preparation for Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix. After posting the fourth-quickest time in Friday’s opening practice, Dixon ran into problems just a few minutes into the Saturday morning session.
Starting the session on a set of well-worn tires, Dixon spun in turn 12, and in the process collected Will Power, with both machines going into the concrete barrier. An agitated Power jumped from his car and angrily confronted Dixon, grabbing him by his firesuit and giving him a shove.
The damage to Dixon’s car was beyond repair, so CGR pulled out and prepared the backup car for qualifying. Dixon failed to get out of the first round of qualifying in the backup, and was relegated to the 23rd starting position.
When Sunday’s race went green, Dixon wasn’t there for long as he worked his way through the field. When the checkered flag fell for winner Alex Palou, Dixon had executed 22 on-track passes and brought his car home in the fourth position.
“We were one spot away from the podium which would’ve been nice,” Dixon said. “Huge credit to the No. 9 crew. Our pit strategy (also) went the way it should’ve.”
Things fell Dixon’s way almost from the start of the race. Starting the race on the red alternate Firestone tire, Dixon ducked into the pits under yellow just two laps in, and when a caution came out 10 laps later, he stopped with the rest of the field and got back in the same pit window as the leaders.
By lap 21 of the 55-lap event, he had cracked the top 10, and on lap 40 he had reached fourth place. He dropped to sixth two laps later but rallied back and passed Colton Herta to reach his finishing position of fourth place.
Dixon made the most of his day, and although he is tied with Pato O’Ward for fourth in the points with 226, he is listed as fifth due to tiebreakers. They are both 98 points behind Palou, who won for the third time this season.
Over the course of his career, Dixon has been through all sorts of championship chases. He’s dominated and run from the front all season, and he’s also come from behind with a late-season push. If Dixon is to win his first title since 2020 and tie A.J. Foyt’s record of seven titles, he’ll have to do the latter this time.
Nine races remaining in the season gives Dixon plenty of time, and other than a 27th-place showing at Long Beach after contact with O’Ward, he has been incredibly consistent with three top-five finishes.
But with Palou running away as the class of the field, consistency won’t cut it, they have to start picking up some wins.
“He’s having a hell of a championship run going right now, and they have a great lead,” Dixon said of his teammate, “but it’s time to get to work and see if we can start closing that gap.”
Fortunately for Dixon, one of his best tracks is next on the schedule, as the series heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a place where he has won a record five times, and then to Toronto where he has gone to victory lane on three occasions.
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be at 1:30 p.m. ET on July 2.
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