He’s in the familiar position of front-runner for what could be a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship, but Scott Dixon’s successful past has taught him not to look beyond the next race.
That would be the ABC Supply 500 on Sunday, Aug. 19 at Pocono Raceway, where the Chip Ganassi Racing driver triumphed in 2013. The 38-year-old New Zealander has a 46-point lead on Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi with four races remaining in the 2018 season, but that's no guarantee that Dixon will take home the Astor Cup once again. As the chart below shows, only half of the drivers leading the points at this stage of the season in the past 10 years have gone on to claim the championship.
Therefore, Dixon's mindset is squarely on the ABC Supply 500 and nothing more.
“You’ve got to treat it as the same,” Dixon said during Monday’s Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “You’ve got to go each weekend and go for a win. I think if you try to break it down any more than that, you start to get yourself in a bit of trouble overthinking things.
“For us, it’s getting there and trying to be fast as possible, trying to win the race. And if I can’t win the race, finish second. Keep those points coming.”
He then stated the obvious about adding another title to go with championships in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015.
“It would be great, right?” Dixon said. “It’s better than four.”
It would also push him past Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais for second most in an Indy car career, trailing only A.J. Foyt’s seven titles.
Dixon laments more the opportunities lost than the triumphs. He’s been a points runner-up twice and finished third five times. One of those seconds came so close, he’ll never forget it.
“For me, you always remember the ones that got away,” Dixon said, “(In 2007) with Dario was definitely a hard one to swallow, running out of fuel on the last corner of the last lap for the championship.
“There are ones like that, but yeah, a fifth (title) would be amazing. That’s why it’s so hard. These are very tough to win. Race weekend alone is really tough. To try to win a championship is that much more.”
Dixon said Monday’s Indy test wouldn’t benefit him at Pocono because the setups at each track vary, even though both are 2.5-mile ovals and all cars are outfitted with the 2018 superspeedway universal aero kit at each circuit.
Besides, Dixon and Team Penske’s Will Power were testing items at Indianapolis that won’t be available at the “Tricky Triangle.” This visit to IMS was all about trying experimental tire compounds and constructions for Firestone as it develops its tire specification for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. Dixon and Power also ran laps using some prototype aero kit pieces designed by INDYCAR to improve the ability of the redesigned cars to follow more closely, again with an eye toward being implemented next year.
“I think there were a few aero pieces that teams and engineers understood to be issues that we had and were running on the car that we could probably rectify and make the racing a little bit better for next year,” Dixon said.
INDYCAR has made available for Pocono a pair of optional front-wing extensions that could aid drivers when following other cars. Those parts will see their first race-weekend action at the ABC Supply 500.
The question lingers on how the cars will handle at Pocono. Since the 2018 car is new to all tracks this season, the same question holds for the final three races: the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park, the Grand Prix of Portland and the season-ending, double-points INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.
“It’s always hard to tell, especially when it’s a year where things have changed a fair bit,” Dixon said. “We’ve had good years at all the tracks and we’ve had bad years, too. We’re just trying to eliminate the mistakes and keep trying to get as many points as possible.
“Pocono is always good. It should be interesting this year. It’s a track we haven’t been to (for a test prior to race weekend). On a lot of these circuits, (we have) a lot less downforce than we’ve had in the past. Pocono should be fairly close (to the level it was last year). I think St. Louis will see a drastic shift as well. I don’t know, I’m looking forward to all of them.”
Catch qualifying and race action from the ABC Supply 500 live on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Single-car qualifying begins at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 18. Coverage of the 200-lap race starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19.
For track and ticket information, visit PoconoRaceway.com.