Tuesday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon playfully requested driving recommendation from Dan Wheldon’s sons following their exhibition karting laps across the 14-turn, 2.439-mile highway course. Oliver, who’s 11, urged Dixon attempt driving deeper into Flip 1.
Dixon laughed. If solely it was that straightforward to win Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is engaged in yet one more mega-competitive season, with Dixon tied with Josef Newgarden for third place, every trailing Marcus Ericsson by 34 factors with 5 races remaining. Will Energy is eight factors behind Ericsson in second place because the collection arrives on the IMS highway course to start the five-race dash. Ericsson is bidding for his first collection championship; his three closest challengers have mixed for 9 of their careers.
For all of Dixon’s success on this collection – six season titles, an Indianapolis 500 offered by Gainbridge victory in 2008 and 52 race wins total – he has lacked one thing just lately on the IMS highway course that he can’t pinpoint. After 4 consecutive top-two finishes from 2017-2020, together with a win, Dixon has a median end of 10.75 over the previous 4 races.
Dixon places the battle on two issues.
“The final time we have been right here was extra of a fumble in qualifying,” he stated. “I feel the tempo was positively there, however you’ve solely obtained two laps to get it completed. I began my first lap poorly after which I spun on my second. If you happen to don’t get it proper (in qualifying), you’re going to be behind the pack (he began twenty first) and gone are the times when the sector is 20 automobiles. Now, it’s 26 or 27.
“However for me it’s extra concerning the (Firestone) tire (on highway programs). It’s fairly a delicate tire and my (driving) type is aggravating to aggressive, which doesn’t bode properly for it. There are methods round it, and we’ve labored it out at different locations – the road course (tire) remains to be very pure for me.”
No less than Dixon is aware of he has the expertise to run properly this weekend, and he’s one among six drivers who’ve competed in all 12 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races on the IMS highway course. He additionally has been the most effective season nearer of his era, with 30 of his 52 race wins coming after the calendar turned to July. A type of wins was the Honda Indy Toronto on July 17, and he adopted that up with top-five finishes final weekend at Iowa Speedway.
Like current struggles on the IMS highway course, Dixon can’t clarify the late-season success.
“There’s no actual cause why it does what it does, but it surely does, and it’s nice the way it seems,” he stated, smiling.
If that pattern continues over the following six weeks, Dixon may have the chance to tie A.J. Foyt for essentially the most collection championships with seven. As many see it, Dixon is lurking in a crowded group of title contenders, even when he tries to not view it that means.
“Possibly, however I really feel like every weekend now you solely give attention to that weekend,” he stated. “I feel it’s very laborious to tempo it out today and say take six races and common a sure (ending quantity). I the previous, possibly you could possibly give attention to this (opponent) or that one, however these days are gone. Take a look at this yr with how shut it’s between the highest six. It’s unfold fairly broad.
“But additionally, should you take a look at the final two seasons, if I end within the prime three on the ’500’ you’re speaking a couple of totally different (level complete). Ending twenty first as I did this yr (on account of a late-race pit highway rushing penalty), I feel I misplaced 70-something factors to my teammate (really 76). Marcus is barely 34 forward of us now. If I’d have had a top-three end we’d be main the championship now. However that’s couldas, shouldas and maybes, and people don’t depend.
“Look, Indy is a giant deal for a lot of causes, however for the championship it’s double factors and that’s actually big. With how aggressive it’s now in case you have a giant (mistake), man, it crushes you.”
To win this championship, Dixon is aware of he and his No. 9 PNC Financial institution Chip Ganassi Racing crew should hold digging, and he may even take Oliver Wheldon’s recommendation about driving deeper into Flip 1 in Saturday’s race (midday ET, NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Community).
“We simply need to hold working laborious,” Dixon stated. “That’s all we will do.”
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