until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


A 1mph slip-up transformed IndyCar’s 2022 title race

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Josef Newgarden has been the subject of a lot of the ‘he’s been unlucky, maybe he should be winning the championship’ talk heading into this weekend’s 2022 IndyCar Series finale, after his momentous five-win campaign.

But Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon – who has been critically undervalued throughout this season – arguably has an even bigger reason to feel hard done by.

That’s because a difference of 1mph would have likely secured him a seventh championship already or at the very least, put him as the clear favourite.

That 1mph being the excess that earned a pitlane speeding penalty on his last pitstop at an Indianapolis 500 he seemed in control of. Double points for winning there would have catapulted him to the title by the last race at Portland. Instead, having ended up 21st at Indy (which gave him 82 points fewer than if he’d won), he faces a much more difficult path to the championship in this weekend’s Laguna Seca finale.

Had Dixon won that Indy race he’d have 585 points instead of the 503 he currently has, and if you shuffle actual current points leader Will Power back one spot in the 500 results to accommodate Dixon winning it, Power would have 521 points and be out of championship contention like everyone else.

Still, back in the real world, it’s not an impossible comeback mission for Dixon. He came back from 47 points behind in 2015 (admittedly, that was a double-points finale). Ruling him out at this stage would be futile. It’s what people have done all year.

Dixon trails Power by 20 points going into the season finale – as does Newgarden – with 54 points on offer for the perfect weekend. Power will score at least five points as long as he starts the race given retirements get points in IndyCar too.

Even though it took until Dixon’s first win of the season – 10 of 17 races in – for people to take notice, his Indy drama was the only time he’d been outside the top 10. And since then, he’s been in the top 10 in every other race, 15 out of 16 so far!

Scott Dixon Grand Prix Of Portland By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69112

“I feel like we always kind of float under the radar a little bit,” Dixon tells The Race in an exclusive interview before jetting off from Indy back to the west coast for Laguna Seca.

“Even if you go back to St Pete, had we done the traditional strategy I think it would have been an easy podium [he finished eighth]. There are easy ways to look at how things could have been slightly different throughout.

“I think Indy was probably the biggest loss and incurring double points. The loss of that one unit definitely hurts. Having even finished in the top three would have completely changed this week and the championship outlook, that’s for sure.

“But, these are all things that you can’t change. So there’s no point dwelling on them.

“I think we’ve done a really good job on the strategy side of things and race running and having cars that are very good on the long run.

“There’s definitely a pretty big difference I would say across all four of our cars for road course qualifying and just straight up performance.

“I feel like our performance in the race is always very good for all of us.

“But even if you look at last year’s champion [Alex Palou] doesn’t have a race win or a pole, so it’s definitely an area that we need to work on and make better.

“I think once the season ends, it’s always much easier to kind of deep dive and understand the areas but I think that’s been a pretty big and obvious standout for us as a group.”

As a six-time champion already, Dixon has plenty of experience and he won’t be dwelling on what happened at Indy.

As he describes it, we’re in a sport where you lose more than you win.

“Trust me I was upset about Indy but I’d moved on by Monday,” he adds.

Scott Dixon 106th Indianapolis 500 By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M60321

“That’s just one of those things. We’re in a sport where you lose a lot more than you win. Unfortunately, you get used to some of the defeats or just the outcomes that you maybe didn’t expect.

“It’s part of racing. Again, that place owes me nothing and we’ll keep knocking on that door. I think we’ve had great performance and great cars the past few years.

“I think I was more happy that Marcus [Ericsson] won, just for the fact that the team really deserved it. That helped a lot, I think with the process of not winning that race. But yes, we’ve come close there many times and it’s a difficult race to win.”

The fact that Ganassi enters with two cars in the hunt this weekend is a testament to the levels of performance it has produced this year, Dixon was keen to point out how proud he is of Marcus Ericsson and the #8 team for reaching a title decider in contention for the first time having won the 500 earlier in the season.

That’s amid any ‘awkwardness’ of the Ganassi team being embroiled in a legal battle with the reigning champion Alex Palou’s desire to join McLaren. Even with that looming overhead, Ganassi has put two of its four cars in the top 10 in every race this season until Portland broke that run.

Sure, Penske has a more harmonious line-up at the moment and perhaps isn’t struggling as much for qualifying form and outright speed on road courses. But Dixon still feels like there’s a chance this weekend and he’s relaxed about the opportunity.

Scott Dixon Grand Prix Of Portland By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69874

What we know is that a third place for Power will win him the title, and it gets complicated from there. Dixon has one goal and that’s to win.

“[I’m] probably a little more relaxed than Will!” he says.

“Trust me, there’s a tonne of pressure on everybody. But being a leader, it’s kind of an annoying lead that he’s got where it’s still highly possible [to lose] if a small thing goes awry. Anything’s possible.

“I’ve been in those situations and all you’re thinking about is making a small mistake, spinning or having a mechanical issue or having a strategy flip.

“It’s coming at you in all directions. It’s pretty simple for us, we’ve just got to beat our competitors and go out there honestly, with the mindset of winning the race, no matter where we start or where we are after the first lap. We have a lot more options than maybe Will does.

“That can take its toll and it can make it a tough way to race but it also feels great when when you pull it off.”

Dixon tested at Laguna Seca recently – unlike the Penske team that went to Portland – and reckons that with a new alternate tyre that degrades a lot, pretty much any scenario for any number of pitstops is possible and that “It could be a race where there’s a lot of attrition, a lot of mistakes and a lot of deg which will be slightly different from what we’ve seen”.

Scott Dixon Grand Prix Of Portland By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69512

That should make it exciting as a finale because it’s not a track that’s been easy to overtake on.

That being said, Dixon’s average start is worse than 10th but his average finish is 6.5, only fractional worse than Power’s series leading 6.36.

So if anyone can have a tough qualifying and still make this work, it’s Dixon.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks