until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Dixon’s latest win is more important than you might think

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Whether it’s being ‘embarrassed’ about his qualifying form, botching the Indianapolis 500 with a pitlane speeding penalty when he should have finally ended his drought there, set-up gambles failing to pay off or personnel movement disrupting his part of the Ganassi team, it’s felt in many ways like a nightmare 2022 season for IndyCar’s most successful current driver.

But, clearly there’s room for analysis of that hypothesis, because all of that aside he’s only finished outside of the top 10 once all season and that was in that ill-fated 500.

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To see Scott Dixon win a race is a familiar sight, so much so that perhaps fans don’t always consider how difficult they come sometimes for him. Especially this year. Especially in the 14 months since his last win at Texas Motor Speedway. “We needed this,” he beamed to a crew member leaving victory lane in Toronto on Sunday.

“It’s been a bit of a blah year,” Dixon said when asked about the win in the context of his 2022 plight.

“We’ve had loads of top fives, but they’re not going to win you a championship. We’re in the business of winning, right?

“I think that’s where it gets frustrating. You see the close misses.

“Indy is a good example. Indy is a good example for several years. It’s a team effort. I made a big mistake this year. Definitely frustrating.

“I think you start to hit a bit of a bottom-out.

“It’s weird, this sport. When you’re on a roll, you just think it happens, it’s easy, stuff like that, you maybe don’t really respect it as much.

“There are low points. I’ve had these periods in my career just where you have to be really respectful of the sport. When it comes, you got to be extremely happy about it.

“It’s never one thing. It’s attention to detail. It’s hundreds of small details. But that’s where this team, as we’ve seen, winning last year’s championship with Alex [Palou], to winning the Indy 500 this year with Marcus [Ericsson], they’re a tough group and a group that works extremely hard.

“Just very lucky to be a part of this team.”

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All but one of Dixon’s now 52 victories have come with Ganassi and his new tally matches IndyCar legend Mario Andretti for second in the all-time list. Dixon, about to turn 42, added he’d “probably have to be racing well into my 50s for that one” in response to questions on if he could reach AJ Foyt’s record of 67.

But really, Dixon knows this win was far more important for his immediate future than for when he’s looking back on the milestones he reached during his career.

Even one race finish outside the top 10 this season in 10 attempts isn’t good enough in this series and you need to be winning two-to-four races if you’re going to win the title because of the weighting of points in IndyCar.

“I’m probably more relieved to just get a win,” he said when asked whether the victory or reaching Mario’s record was more important.

“There’s definitely people that just keep talking about it [not winning], which gets a bit frustrating. It’s not like anything changes. We’re still the same process, trying just as hard.

“Again, I think in this sport you always think about the close misses that you had more than the actual victories. It can be a bit sad in some ways.

“I’m happy for myself and my family, but really happy for the team. They’ve deserved it. They’ve done a tremendous job this year.

“We got the win, so that’s all that matters at this point, I guess.”

You’re only as good as your last race as the old adage goes. That’s certainly been Dixon’s mindset in the past.

It has to be given some of the lows that punch you in the gut in IndyCar, such as his Indy 500 experience, which Dixon repeatedly brought up in the post-race press conference despite not being specifically asked about it. It’s clear it’s still a sore one for him to process as he has five poles there but only one win.

“Obviously if you keep knocking on that door, eventually it opens,” he said of the Toronto win.

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“I was hoping it was going to open at Indy this year, but it just wasn’t the case.”

Winning Indy would have boosted him significantly in the championship standings, too, because he’d be three points off the championship lead, although I won’t assess that further for fear of being accused of over-criticising double points at a race everyone is already trying to win anyway.

Standings without double points at Indy 500

1 Marcus Ericsson 301
=1 Will Power 301
3 Scott Dixon 298 -3
4 Alex Palou 292 -9
5 Josef Newgarden -11

Actual current points

1 Marcus Ericsson
2 Will Power -35
3 Alex Palou -37
4 Josef Newgarden -44
5 Scott Dixon -44

Scottdixon Hondaindytoronto By Joeskibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M64554

Back to Toronto and the race looked fairly serene from the outside. Pitting a lap before Colton Herta allowed Dixon to leap ahead with a lap with clean air and fresh tyres. From there he had to manage the restarts and stay clean.

It wasn’t that simple, though. There was the small matter of Alex Palou’s future looming over this team and causing “awkwardness” as Dixon put it before criticising Palou’s handling of the situation pre-weekend.

Dixon praised Chip Ganassi’s “calmness” and “real leadership” during the week in which the team’s announcement that it was keeping Palou for 2023 was followed almost immediately by Arrow McLaren SP announcing that it had signed Palou itself. Palou then distanced himself from his current employer’s press release about his 2023 deal.

“I think somebody’s kind of throwing their toys out of the cart, running around, that’s going to be a different reaction for everybody to see,” added Dixon.

“He’s very calm. I think it was a great calmness and a sternness that he had this weekend that kind of clears out the noise that’s out there.”

Don’t forget, Dixon himself has been pursued by Zak Brown – perhaps again recently, as it was rumoured he was in 2019 – and faced countless questions and rumours about whether he intends to carry on racing, which he emphatically answered saying he can’t see his current situation changing for five years if he remains competitive.

Sunday seems to have put the last question to bed!

A trip to Toronto and the travel complications that arise from that also meant many crews didn’t have their optimal personnel and Dixon’s engineer Michael Cannon was absent.

That said, the replacement was Chris Simmons, who engineered Dixon to five of his six championships before moving into more senior roles at Ganassi. Not a bad replacement and perhaps another indicator of the level of resources the top teams boast.

His car was still oversteering massively which he said helped with rolling to the apex of the corner and therefore saving some fuel, but proved problematic when he had to push to extract lap time and keep Herta behind.

So this victory, like Dixon’s season, had plenty of behind the scenes complexities that contribute to a somewhat bizarre year that in many ways deserves more credit than it’s received so far.

But such is the way with Dixon, he’s just held to a much higher standard.

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