Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon entered the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season on the verge of multiple historic feats.
He would arrive in St. Petersburg for the March 11 season opener with 41 career wins (just one behind Michael Andretti) and four career championships (tied with Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais, Al Unser and Mario Andretti for second all-time).
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would prove to be an interesting one for the New Zealander. Despite two penalties, he would improve to sixth from his ninth-place starting spot.
Three weeks later at ISM Raceway, Dixon again would have his work cut out for him. After starting 17th, Dixon methodically drove his Honda-powered entry up to fourth-place. The following week at Long Beach would prove to be another trying race for the No. 9 team.
After running in the top ten most of the race, Dixon dove into the pits just before the yellow flag waved on Lap 60.
Eight laps later, he would be assessed a drive-through penalty. Even after the setback, Dixon finished 11th. The three-race stretch would end with the four-time champion seventh in points.
Following a disappointing 18th-place qualifying effort for the May 12 IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,
Dixon would post the fastest time in the morning warm-up. His performance would be a great omen for the rest of the day. He would turn in an impressive drive to finish second in the 85-lap race, 2.2443 seconds behind Will Power.
“We stuck to our strategy that we had in the pre-race meeting with pitting early on the blacks (tires), getting rid of them and then running as hard as possible for the reds for the three stints after,” Dixon would remark after the race.
“Today it worked out well. Maybe next race it won’t.”
The following Tuesday would begin preparations for the 102nd Indianapolis 500. After running Top 10 in three of the first four practices, Dixon began to experience migraines on Fast Friday.
Overcoming the pain, the 2008 race winner earned a spot in the Fast Nine to compete for his fourth pole and second straight. The following day, Dixon would qualify ninth for the race. On Carb Day, he would record the second-fastest time.
In the 200-lap race that Sunday, Dixon would again display an impressive run. As fuel mileage became a factor, he saved enough from his Lap 162 stop to reach the end of the race and finish third. The effort marked his best run at the 500 since his second-place finish in 2012.
With Indianapolis behind Dixon and his team, they looked to use the strong runs as a spark for the remainder of the season. Six days after the 500, their goal began to come to fruition. Pit strategy again would put the No. 9 team in a position to win, and Dixon capitalized. The 2012 Detroit Grand Prix winner led 39 of 70 laps en route to victory.
The win marked Dixon’s 42nd in his career, tying him with Michael Andretti. He also extended his IndyCar record to 14 straight seasons with a victory. Afterward, he reflected on the win and his time in racing.
“For me, I love racing,” he expressed after the race.
“I feel very lucky to do it, and while I’m here, I want to do the best that I can. You know, winning is why we’re in this business, and that’s why we’re going to come back tomorrow and try and get No. 43, but that’s easier said than done.”
In the second Dual a day later, Dixon again started near the front, going from fifth to fourth in the 70-lap race that Sunday.
The most demanding stretch of the IndyCar schedule would come to a close less than a week later at Texas Motor Speedway. The 2008 and 2015 race winner qualified seventh and was fastest in final practice the evening before the 248-lap race.
During the race, Dixon’s car came to life as the sun set and darkness kicked in. On Lap 130, he took the lead and never looked back. Dixon went on to finish 4.2943 seconds ahead of Simon Pagenaud for his 43rd career win. It would break the tie with Andretti and net him sole possession of third on the all-time win list. Dixon also inherited the points lead.
“It’s really cool. Obviously, I have massive respect for a lot of these drivers,” he noted after the race of attaining the goal so quickly.
“But when you look at those names, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, the Unsers, to me it still seems very strange that ‘Dixon’ is on that list, too.”
After the week off, Dixon looked to defend his 2017 race win at Road America. In qualifying, he would not advance to the Fast Six and started eighth.
While Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden dominated the 55-lap event, Dixon was the only other driver to lead. He would do so for two laps during the first round of pit stops. Ultimately, Dixon would finish third.
Next up for the series is the Iowa Speedway. Although he has won three poles at the .875-mile track and finished Top 10 in 9 of 11 races, Dixon has yet to win at the track. It is one of just three on the schedule where he has not won.
“Iowa Speedway is such a tough track for racing Indy cars,” Dixon remarked this week.
“You have very high G-force loading and there is always a lot of action on this little bullring style track. You really have to be on your game with traffic and the quick lap times. I really love this event and especially the fans that attend – they really love Indy car racing and show their support. We’ve had a few poles here over the years but the best we’ve finished so far is third – hopefully, we can change that this time.”
Dixon currently owns one of the hottest streaks in the series (six consecutive top-five finishes). He also is 45 points ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in the points.
For Dixon, there would be no better way to continue that streak than add a victory at Iowa Speedway to his career accomplishments.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.