By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
It’s been 12 years since five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon won the Indianapolis 500, but perhaps this year’s running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing may be his greatest shot yet of getting a second Borg-Warner Trophy.
After ending up second fastest on Carb Day Friday, the current points leader has been proud of the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing’s efforts this month that’s had its share of ups and downs.
Especially last Sunday where Dixon crashed in Turn 4 during post-qualifying practice. Championship caliber teamwork followed as they quickly repaired the PNC Bank Honda without skipping a beat and still ended up being one of the quickest cars at Indy.
“I think the team has done a good job all month. Even had some obstacles here. Felt really good,” said Dixon. “There was a bit of a strange time through that session with maybe about 30 minutes to go that we lost the balance a little bit, and figured out what was wrong, got the car going again.
Dixon wasn’t alone when it came to grip issues as teammates Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson also had similar issues. Once diagnosing the problem, the cars were improved and rebuild some confidence going into the 104th Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge.
“We started with just a shortlist of things that we kind of wanted to get through. We did that. A lot of those were improvements, which were good. Seems like Marcus went in the same direction. Felix wasn’t sure on a couple things back there,” Dixon added. “All three cars are in definitely in a good situation to run really well in traffic. Hopefully we can continue on in staying close to the front there and fight it out at the end.”
Between now and Sunday’s race start at 2:30 p.m. ET (live on NBC), conditions will be different as the race is at a much later starting time than the traditional Noon start during “The Month of May.”
Not only that, it’s expected to be hot and windy, creating some conflict on how the cars will handle. Something which a fairly confident Dixon, who’ll start in the middle of the front row, described that strategy may play a bigger role in the 200-lap race odyssey.
“It’s hard to know I think honestly. The track conditions are probably going to be quite a bit different come Sunday. As long as everybody on the outside has monitored things, we go out there with the best understanding of what we need. It’s going to be interesting,” said Dixon.
“I think it’s going to be a slightly different race maybe than last year. Fuel mileage, pretty draggy outside by yourself, save a ton of fuel mileage in traffic. Two or three laps each stint, it can get out of whack quickly.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty big mindset on strategy, too, that it doesn’t get away from people.”
If this month, let alone this season, tells us anything, never count out Dixon and while he’s among those feeling the overtaking struggle, he’s at a much better position of snapping the long Indy 500 drought.
“I think HPD has definitely helped us a ton in performance and drivability, being able to accelerate a lot better in traffic. That’s part of it, part of our car being better,” said Dixon. “I don’t know. In my side of things I feel like we’re better than last year.”