The NTT IndyCar Series season is off to the same kind of start for Scott Dixon as the 2018 campaign did.
Hopefully for the series star it has the same kind of ending.
Just like last year, Dixon comes to Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday’s DXC Challenge 600 fresh off his first win of the season in Detroit. Last year he followed up the Detroit win with a dominating win at TMS, using that stretch as a springboard to his fifth series title.
The star from New Zealand wouldn’t mind seeing that trend continue.
“You put a lot of emphasis on this point of the season,” said Dixon, whose win in the second race in Detroit on Sunday moved him to fourth in the points standings. “I love this point of the season when you’re going from Indy to Detroit to Texas. With Indy, win or lose you’ve got to move on. You have to set your sights on what’s next.”
What’s next for the Chip Ganassi Racing standout is a TMS track in which Dixon has already won three races. The high-banked 1 1/2-mile oval is a track that Dixon feels comfortable at, and the results show it.
“I really enjoy the style of racing and how on edge you are,” Dixon said. “The first five laps of a run are easier. Because of the tire grip after that you are hanging on. If you can get the balance right, you’re set. If not, you’re drifting. It’s fun being on the edge that much. The car was really good last year.
“At Texas it can be a really good night or it can be really long if the car’s not that. I think that’s what I like about it. When you get it right, it’s really rewarding.”
Dixon’s comfort level at TMS has already shown up this week. His No. 9 Honda was the fastest car in Thursday’s rain-shortened practice, and he was sixth in Friday’s practice. Dixon’s run for a fourth win at TMS will start from the front row as he’ll start Saturday’s race second behind Takuma Sato, who won the pole with a two-lap average speed of 220.250 mph. Dixon just missed his first pole since 2017 with an average speed of 220.162.
The Detroit win last week got the always steady Dixon back on track after a weird week. His chances at winning a second Indianapolis 500 disappeared when he was caught up in an accident and finished 17th. Then during the first race at Detroit Dixon hit the inside wall and crashed into a tire barrier. He finished 22nd and last, giving him his first DNF since 2017.
But Dixon showed his championship mettle the next day by winning and getting himself back on track.
One thing the veteran knows is that slow starts don’t mean it’s time to panic.
“Typically we start the season a little soft,” he said. “This year has been really strong. Last year we struggled at the road courses, and this year the car’s been really good. It changes so quickly. The first part of the season you’re thinking Indy, Indy, Indy. Now it’s a hard right turn and figuring out how to win a title.”
Dixon, who is two series titles behind A.J. Foyt for the IndyCar record, knows winning title No. 6 won’t come easy. There is a ton of talent on the circuit in the form of veteran drivers and newcomers.
“There’s been an interesting mix for that,” said Dixon, who is in third place on the all-time wins list with 45. “It’s typically the usual suspects and some rookies. We’ve already seen [rookie] Colton [Herta] win and [teammate] Felix [Rosenqvist] win a pole. I think that it’s fantastic the strength of the series and for the future. And [point leader] Josef [Newgarden] is off to a great start.”
But now it’s Dixon’s time to get going as TMS marks the midpoint of the season. He’s ready for it with the momentum is has on his side now.
“We were getting to the point where we were almost out of the game for the championship,” Dixon said. “You don’t want the deficit to get much bigger than that, especially these days with the competition. It was a bummer for us on Saturday [in Detroit] and a great redemption. There’s a lot of strong cars and strong teams. This race will be tough.”