INDIANAPOLIS – Heading into Saturday’s fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix, Scott Dixon wasn’t listed as one of the favorites to win. After all, he’s yet to win in this race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was only seventh and 13th respectively in the two Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions on the 2.439-mile road course this weekend. He was even worse in qualifying as he’d start 18th in the 85 Lap race.
He told me yesterday that his car just wasn’t fast enough as they had nothing for the heat of the day. The balance was there, but the speed wasn’t. With starting near the back, can you avoid the annual first lap crash? Can you get track position when strategy isn’t very big here with so few cautions that typically fly?
There was a first lap crash and Dixon avoided it. He did get track position and did so without strategy too. He also did it with a less an ideal car.
Dixon, brought his No. 9 Honda home runner-up in Saturday’s race for his 39th career second place finish in the series. That ranks third all-time, two shy of tying Helio Castroneves for second ever. It was also his 97th podium, one shy of Al Unser for fourth all-time and 143rd career top five, six shy of A.J. Foyt for second ever.
He did this at Phoenix too when he started 17th and finished fourth. In fact, his best two results this season are when he qualifies so bad.
This race though was different. Dixon’s crew changed a lot over night and then decided to be one of the five drivers to start on Firestone primaries. The rules state that you have to run at least a couple of laps on each set of tires. So, they gambled in hoping for a first lap crash and to get by and then not only make up positions, but short pit and go with the Firestone alternates the rest of the way.
It paid off. He just picked drivers off one by one and finally go up to second when he passed Robert Wickens inside of 20 to go. While he’s yet to lead a lap this season, he’s just hanging around. He’s fourth in the standings and isn’t having a Scott Dixon year yet. What happens when his starting spot improves and the wins start coming?
: “It was a great result today for the PNC Bank car and the whole team,” Dixon said. “Everyone on the Ganassi team never quits, never gives up and we were able to make up a lot of spots and finish second. I think that was the worst I’ve ever qualified without crashing or having a technical issue. Good day in the points for the No. 9 team. I love having this race open up the month for us here at Indy.”