Come September, Scott Dixon hopes to look back on last weekend’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race in Detroit and consider it the catalyst to his record-tying seventh series championship.
Dixon and his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda have been good but not often enough great so far this season, but their third-place finish in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on the heels of having the fastest car for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge showed the promise of what could be.
Yes, Dixon desperately wants his first win since last year’s May 1 race at Texas Motor Speedway and a shot at a seventh series title, but he knows a host of podium finishes can add up in this ultra-competitive series.
“It’s good for myself; it’s great for the team,” Dixon said of the Detroit podium. “Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
Dixon enters this weekend’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR sixth in the standings, 53 points behind Belle Isle race winner Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet). Of course, at the midpoint of last month’s “500” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES legend expected to be much closer to the top of the leaderboard.
With 12 points in hand for winning Indy’s NTT P1 Award for being the pole sitter, Dixon was on pace for his second career “500” victory when he turned toward pit road for his final stop on Lap 175. By now, Dixon’s ensuing heartbreak is well-known. His car was 1 mph over the speed limit, drawing a penalty that required him to return to pit road for an excruciatingly slow drive-through.
Dixon dropped from the lead to 26th place, and he finished 21st. Aside from all the traditional accolades that coming with winning Indy, Dixon also lost the potential to score an additional 82 points, which likely would have vaulted him to the series lead at the season’s halfway point.
The setback was devastating on many levels.
“Yeah, last week didn’t go as planned,” Dixon said. “You’ve just got to keep looking forward.”
At least Detroit provided a bounce-back, although Dixon regretted not being more aggressive in the opening segment of the race, when Power, who was on the same strategy, jumped him for position. Power built a gap that keyed his first win of the season.
“I think if anything I would change in the race, (it) would be that,” Dixon said.
It is worth noting that Dixon’s podium at The Raceway at Belle Isle was the 128th top-three finish of his career, inching him closer to Mario Andretti’s record of 144. Dixon also is now within seven top-five finishes of Andretti’s all-time mark of 193.
Road America offers Dixon a chance to gain ground on his competition. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES has staged seven races at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile permanent road course since reviving the event in 2016, and Dixon has won two of them – in 2017 and Race 1 in 2020 – and he finished third in 2019. Chip Ganassi Racing also won Race 2 in 2020 with Felix Rosenqvist at the wheel.
The next three races – Road America followed by the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 3 and the Honda Indy Toronto on July 17 – offer Dixon a golden opportunity to get back in title contention. Combined, he has 11 career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victories at those venues. He also has won at World Wide Technology Raceway, site of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Aug. 20.
A seventh championship would tie Dixon with A.J. Foyt for the most in series history.
“We’ve got a little bit of work to do, and hopefully we can keep gaining on that,” Dixon said of his chances. “All we can do now is try our hardest and get some wins here soon.”
NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice from Road America begins Friday at 4:45 p.m. (ET). Saturday’s action begins with a practice at 10:55 a.m. (ET). NTT P1 Award qualifying is at 2 p.m. (ET) with the final practice at 5:35 p.m. (ET). The 55-lap race is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. All sessions will be available on Peacock Premium, the streaming service of NBC.