INDIANAPOLIS – A main stat that sticks out to me when taking a step back and looking at the Verizon IndyCar Series season thus far has been just how quiet Chip Ganassi Racing has been in 2018. Out of the 527 laps run in the four races this year, CGR drivers have led a combined zero of them. That’s shocking.
Penske has led the most at 195 circuits led with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports next with 133. Dale Coyne Racing also has led 103 laps led, all by Sebastien Bourdais. Andretti Autosport is next with 84, followed by Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (7) and Ed Carpenter Racing (5).
That’s why it’s so shocking that a driver like Scott Dixon has not led a lap yet in 2018. He’s led over 5,000 laps in his storied career. Everyone assumed that the “Ice man” would be the one to beat with this new car. While he’s been running up front, he’s been very quiet.
Dixon, finished sixth in St. Pete, fourth in Phoenix and sixth at Barber. He was 11th in Long Beach too. Not horrible stats per say. But, in St. Pete, he made a mistake on pit road and even a rare mistake on track where he got into Turn 1 too hot and into the back of Takuma Sato. He still rebounded with a top 10 finish. At Phoenix, he started 17th. He’d charge hard for a top five. At Barber, he was off strategy and nearly made it work. If not for rain, he’d likely finish third. At Long Beach, he was going for a podium, but an ill-timed caution forced him to pit when the pits were closed and a finish outside of the top 10.
Take his teammate Ed Jones too as an example. Jones, finished eighth in St. Pete and third in Long Beach. He was running second with 21 laps-to-go at Phoenix before crashing. At Barber, he was inside of the top 10 before an electrical problem took him out of the race.
So, for Dixon, I can make a case where he would have had two straight podium finishes heading to Indy with a worst finish of sixth. For Jones, I can make a case where he would have finished inside the top 10 in all four races this year, two of which podiums too.
That’s why despite zero laps led, I’m not too concerned about Ganassi at this point.
What about Simon Pagenaud? He’s led just three total laps this year. He has yet to finish inside of the top five. But, like the Ganassi boys, I’m not worried about him either. He was a bit off at St. Pete, but so was all the Chevy cars. At Phoenix, he was strong, a top five car that night, but a pit road error early on cost him the finish he deserved. In Long Beach, he was taken out by Graham Rahal in the first turn on the opening lap. Not his fault. At Barber, he was just on the wrong end of the strategy.
I would think all three of these drivers will turn things around at Indy.