Entering the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, everyone thought Team Penske would run away with the championship. After all, they now had the top four finishers in last year’s final season standings, and mix that with an aerokit freeze, why would Penske/Chevrolet have any less success? Counter that with Chip Ganassi Racing moving from Chevrolet power to Honda for 2017 and beyond too, and it should have been a walk in the park right?
Well, so far it virtually has been. Penske has four of the top five drivers in the standings right now and three of them realistically with a shot at the championship at Sonoma.
What if I also told you that Scott Dixon would finish 32nd in a double points paying race in the Indianapolis 500 back in May and that he’s in a Honda? He also has just one win this year.
Well, here Dixon is though breaking up the Penske party and sitting just three points out of the lead heading to the season finale in Wine Country. Despite that feat, Dixon actually feels like he should have even more points this season and with the way things have played out, he should be the one with the points lead heading to Sonoma instead of Josef Newgarden.
“I think you’d always prefer to be leading by a healthy margin,” Dixon said in Tuesday’s conference call. “But I think with the ups and downs and misfortunes we’ve had throughout the season, I’m somewhat surprised that we’re still within striking distance for the points race, especially with Texas, Indy, Long Beach and St. Pete where we could have had a ton of points through those four alone. Definitely it makes for an exciting championship last race, which is what everybody expects, I think, out of the Verizon IndyCar Series and how is always is. But yeah, it’s pretty tight. I think especially for the four of us, and then also with Will (Power), who still has a very good chance with the double points system.”
Dixon’s right in that aspect too.
In the season opener at St. Pete, an untimely caution flag flew in the middle of the first pit sequence. Dixon would have been in the top two if not for that. Instead, he had to play catch up and would finish third. That’s five points left off the table there.
At Indy, he had a top five car but was caught up in a wicked crash. He’d finish 32nd. That’s a double points race too, Lets just say he finished fifth that day. Fifth place paid 91 points. He got 53 points for finishing 32nd. For simplicity, lets just say he lost give or take 40 points at Indy.
At Texas, he was easily cruising for a podium finish before Takuma Sato took him out with seven laps-to-go. He’d finish ninth and get 23 points. Second place paid out 40 points that night. That’s 17 more points off the board.
So, two crashes where he had no where to go and being on the wrong end of pit strategy has left over 50 points off the board for the New Zealand native.
“Well, I think every kind of race has its — obviously has its play on how the season works out, Dixon told me. “You know, you can easily say it was double points — I think we should have had at least a top 5 or top 10 at Indy, which would have been a lot more points. Texas would have been — we were either going to be first or second there. Other places where we could have had some victories and some other races, too, where we got crashed out. So it’s — I don’t know. You know, it’s what makes a championship, right. It’s the highs, the lows, the ups and downs and things that you should
have done and shouldn’t have done that play out to where you are, and you can’t rely on saying, well, if we’d done this and that, it would have been totally different. It’s just we’re a strong team. I think we came up short on many races throughout the season, but it’s still nice to be in this situation and to know that we’re in a situation to try and win the championship, and that’s — we set two goals every year. First one is the Indy 500, second one is to win the championship. We definitely didn’t do the first one, and now we’re in the hunt for the second, and that’s what we’re going to try