DETROIT – The "Iceman" planned to use the ice bucket overnight.
Scott Dixon drove to an inspiring second-place finish Saturday in the opening race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader weekend, battling through pain in his left leg and ankle – the result of the frightening crash he had in the 101st Indianapolis 500 six days earlier.
It was quite the feat, considering the Raceway at Belle Isle temporary street course is regarded as one of the bumpiest and most physical on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Not to mention that the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is among those who use their left foot to brake.
But Dixon persevered, starting sixth and running among the top seven all day in the No. 9 Camping World Honda. By finishing runner-up to Graham Rahal in the 70-lap race, Dixon also overtook Helio Castroneves for the championship lead heading into the second race this afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
“The foot's not great, but it's working,” Dixon said. “It's just hard to get the last part out of the car and the performance out of it. Very lucky that everybody in the Chip Ganassi side and the Camping World crew have given me a good car.”
Dixon was forced to adjust his driving style to limit the pain during the race. Even though much of the 2.35-mile, 14-turn track’s surface was ground to lessen the severity of some of the bumps, it is still physically draining. Add to that the multiple braking efforts needed each lap, for excruciating 70 laps with a painful foot and ankle, and it’s no wonder Dixon “felt pretty worn out” after Saturday’s race.
“I was actually glad the race was over when it was,” the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion admitted. “This is probably the most physical track we come to, outside of being a doubleheader, just with how bumpy it is. You don't get too much time to rest. Straights are not very long and not very straight.”
The 36-year-old New Zealander was given a crutch to aid his mobility outside the car but has refused to use it – to the chagrin of his wife, Emma, Dixon said. The overnight prescription to prepare for today’s qualifying and race?
“I’m definitely going to go back to my RV here and put my foot in a big bucket of ice, and see if I can cool it off,” he said. “Hopefully get some good rest and obviously qualifying (for Race 2) is going to be key for the race.”
After the seventh of 17 races this season, Dixon has accumulated 275 points – on the strength of finishing in the top five at every race except the Indy 500, but without a victory. He leads Team Penske’s Castroneves by two points and Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato by 17.
“I'm happy we came out of (Race 1) unscathed, got the points lead, which is huge for us,” Dixon said. “When we're not 100 percent, these are the days that definitely help championships, where you've got to strive to get the most out of it.”
Group qualifying for Race 2 begins at 10:45 a.m. ET today and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live coverage of the race begins at 3:30 p.m. on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.