It doesn’t seem to matter how good of a performance Scott Dixon puts together, these days he, like everyone in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, is looking at the rear wing of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou.
That was the case again Sunday in The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid, where the New Zealander claimed a season-best runner-up result and moved into second in the championship standings. However, he watched Palou celebrate in Victory Lane for a third consecutive weekend – something that hadn’t happened since Dixon opened up the 2020 season with as many wins – and extend his points gap from 78 to 110 in the standings.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is usually known as Dixon’s playground. After all, he is nicknamed “Mr. Mid-Ohio” for his record-setting six victories. Sunday, though, he was left doing something he had never done in his 19 previous starts at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course: He finished second.
“Yeah, it was definitely a good day,” Dixon said. “A little bit frustrating here and there.”
SEE: Mid-Ohio Boxscore
After starting sixth, Dixon was able to make up significant time during the in- and out- laps during the opening round of pit stops. Even with an issue hindering the service of his own No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on Lap 30 of 80, Dixon vaulted to third. During that time, though, Palou jumped polesitter Colton Herta to inherit the lead, which he never relented outside of a cycle of pit stops.
“I think we had a little bit of an issue with the fuel probe, which I think in hindsight we would have cleared Herta, which we would have had a race on I think with Alex,” Dixon said. “But yeah, the pace of the PNC Bank No. 9 was really good.
“But huge credit to the 10 car and obviously Alex. He is on a hell of a run. He definitely has a pretty big championship lead at the moment, which is going to be definitely tough to overcome.”
Although Palou is in prime form, having finished no worse than eighth through the opening nine rounds of this campaign, this was a much-needed result for Dixon.
Dixon, a six-time champion in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, has finished seventh or better in eight of the nine races to start the year, with his lone blemish a 27th in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Additionally, Mid-Ohio marked just his second podium thus far, with his other one in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg back in March – the only race he has finished better than his Spanish teammate.
By his own assessment, he summarized the results to the elite standard to which he holds himself accountable.
“It's just been a bit blah, to be honest,” Dixon said. “I think we've had really good pace throughout the year. Maybe haven't executed in the times that we probably needed to. We're kind of right on the top of the hill at the moment. We just need to get over the peak.
“It's definitely tight out there; it's definitely tough. I think there are a few races that could have changed maybe the course of the year a little bit, but I think everybody on the team has done a hell of a job across all four cars.
“I don't think there's anything that stands out right now. It's just not being on the right side of a couple of things, but generally pretty happy I think with pace and just how the races have gone. It's just not what you hope for as well in some cases.”
Up next is the Honda Indy Toronto on July 16, a race Dixon won a year ago. Michael Andretti leads all INDYCAR SERIES drivers with seven wins at Exhibition Place; Dixon is second with four.