The Chip Ganassi Racing drivers said during their media availability earlier this week that the ovals were where they felt they had the most to improve upon for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season. If they were to challenge Team Penske and Andretti Autosport for this year’s championship, a rebound in this discipline of tracks would be the reason if they win it or not.
Following the season opener on Saturday night at the Texas Motor Speedway, I think it shows that CGR is definitely going to be among the teams to beat this season.
Scott Dixon led a race-high 157 of 200 laps in the Genesys 300. It was Ganassi’s first superspeedway win since this race in 2018.
“The car rolled off really well,” said Dixon who now has a win in 18 straight seasons now, tying AJ Foyt for most ever. “I know we’d be working extremely hard on just trying to fix some of the issues we had last year. We had some new people, plus a ton coming back over from the GT program. The engineering depth and everything got a lot stronger, so development was good through the winter.
“The DIL, the simulator with Honda that we’ve been using for the last three weeks in preparation for Texas, has been really good. Lots of things we didn’t think we would try or have the time to try on track, we were able to kind of do that. Gave us some ideas. We were able to sort of verify them once we got here.
“The PNC Bank No. 9 was strong all night. We had a couple little issues in the pit stop there. I don’t know if I went long. We had a bit of a bauble and I went from first back to third. The car just had some really good speed. It was just nice to drive in traffic. Never really had to push too hard. Just trying to make sure we could stay ahead of the rest of them.
“Not often you get a car like that. Just very thankful to have that. The team gave me an amazing car. It was a fun night for us on the No. 9. It’s great to be back in the car after such a long break, to do it like that.”
The only challenge that Dixon had was from his teammate Felix Rosenqvist, but after Dixon exited pit lane for the final time with 10 laps remaining, Rosenqvist knew he had to pounce if he wanted any shot at his first career series win. The second year driver got into the slippery traction compound and spun his No. 10 Honda as a result. In wake of that, Rosenqvist hit the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2, ending his night with a 20th place effort.
“Obviously I came out on new tires and I don’t know if James (Hinchcliffe) had old tires there,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s my judgement, I went for the outside. Probably shouldn’t have done that. It’s one of those things where you sit there and you’re going 40 mph slower than you want to go behind another car and it’s tempting to move up one lane. But it’s so slippery, you know.
“I just feel really sorry for my guys because our car was just unbelievable tonight. It was my breakthrough on ovals and I had a really good shot there I think. So I’m really disappointed.”
Dixon, knew that Rosenqvist was going to be a threat and felt bad for how his teammates night ended.
“Yeah, I knew the cars were very similar,” Dixon said on if he was worried about Rosenqvist catching and passing him for the win. “I knew he was going to be tough. I know Felix has been kind of sneaking up on the ovals a little bit more than the road courses and things like that, street courses, where he just naturally feels a lot more comfortable.
“But I knew these days would come where he’s going to be knocking on the door pretty hard. I feel bad for him. I don’t know exactly what happened there. I think he tried to pass around the outside, got caught up, got high, washed out into the wall.
“It’s a big NTT race for us here. I am sure they loved seeing the show he was putting on. He’s a great kid, a huge talent, is going to go a long way. Occasionally these things happen.”
Rosenqvist, was stellar in 2019 as a rookie on road/street courses. The only area he felt he had the biggest growth in was ovals. Saturday night showed that he’s there and going to be a threat this season too.