The oval season is complete, and the race for the Astor Cup is nearing the checkered flag, as well.
The top two drivers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship standings – Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden – claimed victories in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 doubleheaders Aug. 29-30. But Dixon leads by 96 points heading into the final portion of the season.
Depending on how many races remain, the title could all but be decided.
Here are three things learned from World Wide Technology Raceway:
We’re Witnessing History
It’s time to appreciate the greatness that is Scott Dixon.
Dixon became the third driver to score 50 career wins, joining A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti at the milestone. At having just turned 40, he could reach Foyt’s record of 67 wins. Both Andretti and Foyt won 18 and 20 races, respectively, after turning 40.
“I never thought (50 wins) was ever possible,” Dixon said. “I was very lucky and very fortunate to race in a lot of junior categories, made it to INDYCAR. The first win came in a strange way at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in a fuel race. That he was definitely a shock. Then, obviously, the milestone that we reached today is huge.
“Fifty is a great number. I'd like to think there's 50 more, but that might be pretty tough. We'll keep our head down, and we'd love to definitely get a lot more wins here in the next few years. Yeah, we're in the business of winning, so that's what we got to do.”
While Dixon downplays his chances at breaking records, his numbers speak for themselves. He ranks third in all-time wins and second in second-place finishes (48), podiums (122) and top-five finishes (173).
It’s proof that even when he’s average, Scott Dixon is still very good.
A day after he claimed the 50th win of his remarkable INDYCAR career, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver made it a solid weekend at WWT Raceway, finishing fifth in Race 2. That was his eighth top-five of the season and his 173rd top-five finish in 330 career starts.
That’s a top-five result in 54.2 percent of his races.
The Kids Are All Right
While Scott Dixon impresses at age 40, two drivers who are nearly half his age also had standout weekends at WWTR.
Pato O’Ward backed up his Rookie of the Year performance at the Indy 500 with a pair of podium finishes. And though the Mexican is considered an INDYCAR sophomore, he’s approaching each of his successes as if he were a rookie.
“I'm honestly having a great year,” O’Ward said. “I'm third in points. I'm scoring podiums. I'm technically a rookie. To be able to be challenging for that in my first year, I think I should be very happy with that.
“Obviously, we want to win. We're in this to win. But we're in this to be on podiums, as well. We just keep getting better and better. We're working together, stronger each race weekend. Yeah, we just have to keep doing what we're doing, executing how we have been. Our win will come.”
If not for O’Ward’s double podium, the driver of the weekend could have been 19-year-old Dutch athlete Rinus VeeKay, who used strategy and pace to finish sixth in Race 1 and bettered that performance with a career-best fourth place in Race 2.
“It was a great race, one of the best races I have ever driven,” VeeKay said. “Yesterday, I started 14th and finished sixth so today, starting 18th, I was aiming for a top-10 finish. I had an amazing first lap, got around a lot of guys. The strategy was brilliant, so shout out to my team for making this possible.
“Those last few laps were very tough; everyone was all over the place. Just missed out on the podium, but that's OK. P4 was the best I could do.”
Daly, Carlin part on high note
Conor Daly’s unique 2020 has seen him spend more than half of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with Carlin.
Though Daly will return to Ed Carpenter Racing for the final part of the season, he leaves the one-car Carlin operation feeling optimistic.
The combination of Carlin and Daly produced four top-five finishes in five races (an average finish of ninth) and the first pole for both driver and team, at Iowa.
“To have four of the five races together with Carlin all with top-10 finishes is just really awesome,” Daly said. “I'm just happy and thankful to be here and to have had the opportunity to be competitive with this team and get so close to a podium so many times."