By: Spencer Neff
April 16, 2019 | 12:08 PM
When examining Scott Dixon’s IndyCar career, you’d have to look long and hard to find something the New Zealand native hasn’t accomplished.
2018’s list of on-track successes included passing Michael Andretti for third on the all-time win list and joining A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win at least five championships.
This year, the NTT IndyCar Series’ most decorated driver had one thing on his mind, earn consecutive titles.
“We’ll see if we can actually defend one of these titles for a change,” Dixon noted before the season.
“We haven’t seemed to figure out how to repeat, so hopefully, it’s our year.”
For how much success Dixon has had and how often he is in contention for the championship, the fact that none of his five titles have come in succession is a bit perplexing.
Since winning his first title in 2003, Dixon has only finished worse than sixth twice (2004-2005, 10th and 13th). Even the sixth-place finish in 2016 serves as an outlier for the Kiwi. That season, he finished with just one victory, his fewest since 2005.
The latest title defense started at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Beginning in 2019, Dixon looked to cross another track of his short list of places he has yet to win.
Early on, Dixon’s rookie teammate Felix Rosenqvist took the lion’s share of the headlines after leading opening practice. Although Rosenqvist outqualified Dixon (3rd for the rookie to Dixon’s 4th place start) and led 31 laps, Dixon finished second to start his bid for a sixth title.
At Circuit of the Americas, Dixon started sixth and ran with the leaders for much of the 60-lap event. Things changed a bit when Rosenqvist crashed near pit entry on Lap 44.
Dixon, along with leader Will Power and second-place Alexander Rossi, had yet to make their final pit stops. With pit road closed due to the yellow, the leaders were in trouble. After making their stops, Power fell out due to a driveshaft issue.
Meanwhile, Dixon and Rossi fell to midpack. Dixon did not match his earlier pace and settled for a 13th-place finish, just his third outside the Top 10 since the beginning of the 2017 season.
Next up would be a trip to Barber Motorsports Park. In nine previous starts, Dixon had seven podium finishes, but no wins. He also had started no worse than sixth in any race there, but never on the front row.
After qualifying third behind the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato, Dixon finished second again at Barber. Although Sato dominated the day, Dixon led two laps – his first laps led of the season.
“Yeah, all in all, we’ve got to be happy with that,” Dixon remarked following the race.
“It’s always tough competition. We come here to win, but second place, great for points.”
This past weekend marked a return to the streets of Long Beach. For the first time in 2019, Dixon arrived at a track where he had won before.
Looking to duplicate his 2015 victory at the historic street course, Dixon started things off by finishing in the first couple spots in each of the Friday practices. On Saturday, he began the day by concluding final practice in third behind Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal.
In the afternoon, Dixon showed solid pace during qualifying, but was no match for the speed of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. Before Sunday’s race, Dixon ended the morning warmup in sixth.
During the race, Rossi proved to be even more dominant as he led 80 of the scheduled 85 laps. In the wake of Rossi’s performance, the rest of the field was left in the distance. On the final lap, Dixon and Rahal engaged in an exciting battle for third.
When the checkered flag flew, Rahal narrowly edged out Dixon. But by the time the drivers had stopped on pit road, Rahal had been handed a controversial penalty for blocking DIxon on the backstretch.
After Rahal had the position taken from him, Dixon had his third podium in four races. In his post-race press conference, Dixon was frank in his assessment of each driver’s feelings toward the call.
“I think it is what it is,” he noted.
“We’re going to be okay with it. They’re not going to be happy with it. That’s the way it is.”
Now, Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing team set their sights on May. As of now, Dixon is in third place, a mere 33 points behind Josef Newgarden with the INDYCAR Grand Prix and double points at the Indianapolis 500 upcoming.
Although Dixon has not won a race or a pole in the opening four races (his 2014 season was the last instance of a defending champion doing so), he has looked solid.
This year, he is the only driver to make the Fast Six in qualifying for all four races. Through four races, he and Newgarden are the only drivers to record multiple podium finishes (both have 3).
With both the IndyCar Grand Prix and 103rd Indianapolis 500 in May, Dixon will have a chance to add another track to his win list as well as join the ranks of drivers with multiple Indianapolis 500 wins.
Although Dixon will be as driven as ever and no doubt competitive in each race moving forward, the big goal of defending his title remains.
Header Image By Chris Owens/INDYCAR