NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers often describe Texas Motor Speedway as the most challenging track on the schedule, a high-banked oval requiring considerable focus, experience and bravery. To win a race there, as one driver will do Sunday after 250 intense laps, solidifies the driver as one of the standouts of the sport.
It’s no coincidence then that six-time series champion Scott Dixon has won five races there, Helio Castroneves four, and Will Power and Josef Newgarden two each. The foursome has combined for 150 career wins in the series.
But sometimes a race win is not the ultimate moment for a driver, and Dixon drove that point home this week by saying his first second-place finish at Texas is his highlight.
“I think it’s hard to probably rule out the race in 2003, which was the fall race, to win my first (series) championship,” he said. “To win the championship there in Texas I think was definitely a very fond memory for me.”
Gil de Ferran went to victory lane that October afternoon with Dixon earning the season title by 18 points over the Brazilian.
Dixon led 57 laps in that race, a foreshadowing of things to come for the driver now piloting the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Since then at Texas, Dixon has assembled an impressive resume comprised of staggering statistics, including a track-record 1,043 laps led.
Fifteen of the other 27 drivers in Sunday’s PPG 375 have led laps at this 1.5-mile oval, but no one has led even half as many laps as Dixon. The six-time series champion has led 10 of the past 14 races for a total of 922 laps, and here’s another fun fact: Half of this weekend’s field haven’t completed that many race laps at the track as Dixon has led.
Dixon has dominated so many of his races there, too, the best example being the 206 laps he led of the 212 in the first race of the 2021 doubleheader. Dixon came back the next day to lead 163 of the 248 laps, which means he led 80.2 percent of the laps over the weekend.
Six-time series champion Dixon also led 133 laps in 2012, 97 laps in 2015, 119 laps in 2018 and 157 laps in 2020.
Dixon has led night races, day races, suit-soaking humid races and seemingly every other condition the Fort Worth area has offered on race days in now seven different months. There have been pack races, single-file races and races with big swings in downforce levels and of different lengths. The track has even reworked the configuration in Turns 1 and 2. No matter to Dixon.
In addition to winning a series-leading five Texas races, he has three second-place finishes among his 12 top-five finishes at the track. Those 12 such finishes are among the 193 career top-five finishes that Dixon has in recently tying Mario Andretti’s all-time record.
Dixon acknowledges the benefit of experience at a track like Texas.
“I think you’ve got to be quick on your feet, man,” he said. “Each year something can be a little bit different, whether the tire is a little bit different or the car setup or weather conditions.
“I think the biggest thing for me and for our team is not becoming complacent. I think when you think you understand what the situation is going to bring (you stumble). You’re always trying to extract the most you can out of each (on-track) session that you run, then also trying to be annoying to your teammates and asking them lots of questions, asking them what they would do a little bit different or a little bit better, even extending into the field (and) running into Will Power and asking him how his session went.”
Power has been part of Team Penske’s team-record success at the track, one of six drivers who have combined to give Roger Penske 11 series wins. But Team Penske’s constant nemesis has been Dixon, who otherwise can’t explain his years of success at the track.
“I’d just like to think and say it’s a great combination of a track that I really enjoy and also a track that our team has great cars at,” he said.
This race will be staged at midday, with the green flag dropping at 11:15 a.m. local time (12:15 p.m. ET). Dixon said it hasn’t mattered to him when the race is held. Texas is still Texas, he said, a thrill – or more – a lap.
“I don’t really care as long as you win,” he said. “If you win, I like both conditions.”
This two-day event features a busy Saturday, with the first INDYCAR SERIES practice at 9 a.m. ET. Cars will be on track for 3.5 hours that day, highlighted by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 12:15 p.m. Teams must be ready. Dixon will be as he has been each year since his debut race in 2003.
“I think we’ve had definitely had better races (than in 2003), races that we completely dominated throughout the day or throughout the night,” he said. “Probably the last one in (2021) was a fantastic race to win.
“For me, it’s always about trying to get the next one.”
That next one can be seen Sunday on NBC and Peacock, with the INDYCAR Radio Network also calling the action.