By Josh Farmer, Contributing Journalist
SONOMA, California – Scott Dixon may have lost the battle in qualifying, but he is focusing on winning the war against Alexander Rossi in tomorrow’s IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing was poised for his first Verizon P1 award of the year, but was bumped off the pole by Rossi’s Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay at the very last minute. Rossi would qualify sixth.
Without earning the bonus point for winning the pole, Dixon’s points lead remains at 29. With double points at hand, the easiest way for Dixon to claim his title is to finish no worse than second if Alexander Rossi takes the win.
Living up to his moniker as “The Iceman”, the four-time champ is feeling unfazed about what lies ahead.
“I think front row is a good start,” he said. “Huge driver error there. Just needed to get through a right and left, it would have been looking pretty decent. The car felt good. Huge credit to the team. They’ve done a good job. I think between Portland and here, we came with a pretty different car. It rolled off really well. Happy with that.
“Obviously tomorrow is what really counts. It was nice to improve our speed as a team in this scenario. Just came up short.”
Not only did it match his best start of the season, but it was also his best qualifying result on a natural terrain road course this year, his previous best being eighth at Road America.
After struggling in qualifying this season, Dixon noted that the team altered their approach to time trials this weekend and went with what they thought was good when they rolled off the transporter.
“We’ve been running something totally different from what we typically do,” he said. “We had to really think about whether we would come and start where we did last year or where we thought we would be happy and then shift over.
“It was good to start with and then we just made a lot of minor adjustments to it. For a lot of us, it has been trying to keep up with wind direction and track temp because conditions change so quickly and abruptly.”
Dixon’s 2018 season to date has solidified his place in Indy car history.
Earlier this year his three wins moved him past Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list behind AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti. A fifth series title would put him second only to Foyt (7) in the number of championships won in Indy car racing.
Having accomplished so much in his 17-year career, Dixon is no stranger to dealing with pressure heading into championship rounds. With that in mind, the 38-year-old New Zealander noted that experience is all relative and he is approaching tomorrow’s 85-lap event with a clean slate.
“I don’t think it changes too much,” he said. “I think everybody at this level understands what they need to do,” he said. “Everybody gets nervous. You’re in a competitive environment, one that I really enjoy, sometimes thrive on.”
“Sometimes it’s better not having been in a situation because you don’t know what to expect, you don’t get preset on too many things. I think it can go either way.