ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – As impressive as Alexander Rossi was in victory, Scott Dixon was nearly as impressive. The finish, of course, was the notable difference between two skillful efforts.
Dixon, who started 12th Sunday in the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR because of a mechanical issue in Saturday’s qualifying, was spun out on the first lap, but charged back through the field to finish fifth. The charge from last to fifth at Road America came in the first 14 laps after his spin. After that, without a full-course caution to help bring the field closer, Dixon couldn’t advance further.
“You start getting into the better cars; that’s the problem,” Dixon said. “It’s easy to pass cars up until that point. Definitely, once you get to that top five – or top seven, actually – it gets pretty hard.”
Dixon scored his sixth top-five finish of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, keeping his hopes alive for repeating as series champion. With seven races remaining, he’s fourth in the standings, 94 points behind leader Josef Newgarden, who finished third Sunday.
“You’re frustrated with the fact that you probably should’ve done a better job because you had the accident early on,” Dixon said. “But it is what it is, man. You take these days and try to make the most of it.”
The comeback kept Dixon ahead of two drivers key to his championship chances: Will Power and Takuma Sato. By finishing second in this race, Power outscored Dixon by 10 points and moved up to fifth in the standings, 14 points behind Dixon. Sato, who finished 10th Sunday, dropped to sixth in the standings.
He also gained ground on Simon Pagenaud, who finished ninth Sunday. Dixon trails Pagenaud by 33 points for third in the standings and is 87 points behind Rossi.
Considering how far behind the entire field Dixon was after the spin and facing backward as the field rolled past him (see photo below), the recovery was exceptional.
“I think we were almost 10 seconds behind the field at that point,” he said. “It’s racing, man. We had our problem in qualifying that put us in the middle of the pack. … We were just trying to make the best of the day, and fifth place was pretty good.”
After a runner-up finish in last month’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dixon was second in the standings. He dropped to fifth with poor performances at the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the first of the two races at Detroit.
Dixon rallied with a win in the second race in Detroit, then crashed June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway. Now is the point to make a move toward a sixth season title, he said.
“We’re at a point in the season where we need to make a run,” he said. “When the leaders are taking all the points, it makes it hard to close that gap. It’s frustrating when you look at the last three races. It could’ve been a whole lot worse, though.”
The next opportunity for Dixon to make up ground is the Honda Indy Toronto, where he is the defending and three-time race winner. The race from the streets of Exhibition Place airs live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, July 14 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.