Scott Dixon

Given the historical significance, Josef Newgarden’s drive from 17th place to win last month’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will stand as the most impressive advancement of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

But as numbers go, Scott Dixon delivered a bigger move in Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR, advancing from the 23rd starting position to finish fourth. Dixon’s performance was the largest gain for a series driver since Newgarden roared from 25th to second in last year’s season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and it was made finer by the hurdles Chip Ganassi Racing had to overcome.

Remember, not only did Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda have to be replaced following hard contact with Team Penske’s Will Power in the Saturday morning practice, the organization also had to pool resources to get Alex Palou’s No. 10 The American Legion Honda repaired after the car slammed the tire barrier in Turn 14 in the same session. Mike Hull, the team’s managing director, said Palou’s hit was a 90 G impact.

“That’s as big (of a force) as you see at (Indianapolis Motor Speedway),” he said.

There were less than two hours between the two accidents and the afternoon qualifying session, and Palou earned the No. 3 starting position before going on to win the race the next day. Behind Palou and Dixon for CGR were Marcus Ericsson, who finished sixth in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda, and rookie Marcus Armstrong, who ran as high as third and led five laps.

Hull said Dixon worked his usual magic.

“(He) had to switch to a different race car with some of the same components from the original race car,” Hull said. “So, the aero balance was off, and as a result of that, we didn’t achieve (in qualifying) what we needed to achieve with him, which was unfortunate.

“But he did (what he does), which is to understand how important it is to get to the front without scratches on your car, and the guys did their jobs in the pits for him. He did his job on the racetrack. Who says you can’t pass in INDYCAR racing?”

The race featured 444 on-track passes, 386 of them for position. Among drivers running in the top 10, there were 110 passes for position, with 32 of them occurring within the top five runners.

Dixon said Sunday couldn’t have gone much better, barring a race win.

“Obviously, you know, just one spot away from a podium (finish), which would have been nice, too,” he said. “So, huge credit to the PNC Bank (No.) 9 crew and Honda, as well.

“This was definitely a day where you needed driveability and trying to look after those Firestones and also fuel mileage. It got a little rough there in the back a couple of times.”

Palou’s win gave the organization its 250th all-time win across all divisions, with 127 delivered by the Indianapolis-based INDYCAR SERIES program. Dixon has won 52 of those races. Palou now has seven, Ericsson four.

So, it was a strong day for Chip Ganassi’s organization and for Dixon as he kept his championship hopes alive. As the season reaches its unofficial halfway mark, the six-time series champion is fifth in the standings, 98 points out of the lead.

While Dixon scored 32 points for his effort, he still dropped another 19 points to Palou, the series leader, and Newgarden, who is ahead of Dixon in the standings, finished second with Pato O’Ward third. O’Ward and Dixon have the same number of points as the series takes a weekend off ahead of The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid.

While Palou has a big lead – 74 points over Ericsson – the season is far from over, and there are a host of tracks remaining where Dixon has had success. He has won a record six races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where the series’ next race will be staged. He hasn’t won as many races at Toronto’s Exhibition Place as Michael Andretti’s seven, but last year’s win is one of his four at the circuit, and he also has a pair of second-place finishes.

Dixon hasn’t won a race at Iowa Speedway, but he has finished in the top three four times. He also won last year’s street race in Nashville and is a former race winner at World Wide Technology Raceway and has finished third each of the past two years at Portland International Raceway. In other words, he likes his chances the rest of the way.