By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon did not have the best setup in his car for qualifying ahead of Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and that showed when he ended up 18th on Friday. That result required a lot of car setup changes.
“Dampers, springs, geometry, closed cambers, it was pretty much everything,” said Dixon. “I think we actually threw in a kitchen sink on most of them, too. It was definitely a lot of changes. There was no session we didn’t have a lot, which is frustrating for us, a team like ours shouldn’t be as lost as we were, and I think maybe with the test we had here in those really cold conditions, we tried to react to that too much and over a two-day event, it doesn’t really give you much time to sit on it and think about it.”
Lining up 18th, Dixon ended the first lap 13th after Jordan King and Simon Pagenaud had their issue at Turn 1 and Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato had their issue heading to the back stretch. The No. 9 PNC Bank Honda was able to pass Max Chilton and Graham Rahal but Zachary Claman De Melo got around Dixon.
After the restart, Dixon made his first pit stop early on Lap 13. Using his fresher tires to full effect, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner managed to leapfrog several cars to get to sixth place.
“In that first stint, I think we were running almost two seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field in the mid 70s for that,” said Dixon. “That’s where it made that big jump, and then later on in that segment, too, we were able to pass a few more just on outright speed.”
After his second pit stop on Lap 37, Dixon then got to fifth place, leapfrogging Alexander Rossi but that wasn’t the last of his passes.
Soon after the second round of pit stops, Josef Newgarden would spin while trying to pass Sebastien Bourdais. Newgarden would stall, causing a full course yellow and Dixon would get to fourth place. That would become third after having a faster pit stop than Bourdais under yellow and passing the St. Petersburg winner in the pits.
Dixon would take the restart behind eventual winner Will Power and Robert Wickens. However, Wickens had little to no experience fuel saving and Dixon got around the Canadian on Lap 64. The top three positions would not change as Power beat Dixon, Wickens, Bourdais and Rossi to the line.
This rise through the field was not new for Dixon.
“We’ve actually won from last at Mid-Ohio a couple years back, from 22nd to 1st,” said Dixon. “That was the goal today. We stuck to our strategy that we had in the pre-race meeting with pitting early on the blacks, getting rid of them and then running as hard as possible for the reds for the three stints after. Today it worked out well. Maybe next race it won’t.”