By Josh Farmer, Contributing Journalist
SONOMA, California – Scott Dixon’s unblemished championship run looked even better during Friday’s opening practice sessions for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing ended the day behind fellow title rival and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden.
Dixon, who holds a 29-point lead over Alexander Rossi heading into Sunday’s race, noted that the lack of grip on the 2.385-mile road course made finding an ideal setup quite challenging.
“I think everybody has probably mentioned that the conditions are tough,” Dixon said. “I don’t think the track has changed too much. It’s weathered a little bit over the years. The surface I think is getting pretty slippery, but then to have maybe 30 percent on downforce here, it definitely exposes the car a lot.
“So mechanical situation is something that we really tried to focus on, I think, throughout the year, even in development stuff coming into Sonoma, which at the moment seems to have helped. Tomorrow could be different. It all depends, we’ll see how the competition does.”
In light of the tough track conditions, Dixon’s crew experimented with a rear spring change in the afternoon session. The 44-time Indy car race winner said it was an attempt to stay on top of the temperature and track changes in order to get a little more out of the car.
“Even from this morning to this afternoon, we noticed some pretty big balance shifts, and it was more just to try and understand if we can manipulate it a little bit more, whether it’s for the reds or the blacks or weather tomorrow,” Dixon said.
“Yeah, just trying to get through the motions and try and find some more gains if we can.”
The 38-year-old New Zealander’s season to date has been nearly flawless. He overcame nearly getting caught up in a five-car accident on the third corner to finish fifth in the Grand Prix of Portland two weeks ago.
In a season of minimal mistakes, Dixon only has two finishes outside the top 10 – Long Beach (11th) and Iowa (12th). With only one race remaining, he remains focused on what is in front of him, not behind.
“I think you can ask any driver, there are many scenarios and situations throughout the season that, yeah, we could have done that better or we could have had some more luck here and there,” he said. “I found during the course of the year it kind of evens its way out.”
“I can’t change that, so I’m not going to really think about it. We’ll just keep our heads down and try and make the most of it.”