Scott Dixon entered the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season with a main goal of another championship. Sounds cliché right? Well, for Dixon, the next Astor Cup in his collection will be his seventh. That would tie AJ Foyt for most ever.
That’s big in itself. But, out of the previous six, he’s never won back-to-back championships. He’d love to be able to accomplish that feat.
Dixon, won his championships early on in five year increments. 2003, 2008, 2013. Those were the first three. Then, he broke that trend a few years later by earning a fourth title in 2015. He’d win again in 2018 then his last one in 2020.
Trends say he will win the title next year or the year after but Dixon knows that the window of winning that record tying championship is getting smaller and smaller. As he gets older and the series tougher, winning championships grows harder. That’s why it’s astounding that he’s won as many as he has.
Dixon is bar none a generational talent. AJ Foyt. Mario Andretti. Scott Dixon. He’s not only an all around great guy off the track but he’s the best on it too.
The thing is, are we overlooking Dixon right now? I mean, how do you overlook at guy with 51 wins? Those are the third most ever. What about his 48 runner-up finishes? That ranks second. So does his 125 podiums and 178 top 10’s.
But, with how the first half of the season has gone, Dixon is flying under the radar again. We keep talking about parity, the youth movement and how this is the best the series has ever been. We’re not talking much about Dixon other than his Indy 500 pole last month. That’s dangerous.
See, Dixon sits third in points. He’s 36 points out. He’s still within striking distance and we did a typical Dixon thing last weekend in Belle Isle.
“I think we’ve had decent showings, but I don’t know,” Dixon said of his season thus far. “Sometimes it’s kind of hard to find your stride. I think we’ve had a bit of rough luck. If you look at Indy, took us out of the running for the race early on. Once you fall a lap down, we spent 90% of the race trying to get that lap back, which no one else was able to do.
“Detroit, yeah, I think it was stuff that was kind of out of your hands that really didn’t create opportunity.
“I don’t know. I feel like we’ve been knocking on the door, had things rolled our way a little bit… I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that we’ve had major issues or lack of speed or anything like that. I think the team’s done a very good job. I think we’ve done a very good job of splitting maybe strategies, too, which has covered the field. We’ve seen three of the Ganassi cars get a win this year, which is fantastic.
“I don’t know. Last year’s start, three wins in the first three races, that’s a great way to start the year. Obviously this year hasn’t started that way. Still third in points. I think you look back at previous years, maybe that’s still a strong start for us. But it’s definitely time to get our heads down, hopefully we can chase another championship.”
Points leader Pato O’Ward told me earlier this week that in order to beat the master on consistency at his own game was to be consistent himself. He was referring to Dixon. Well, O’Ward did just that in finishing third on Saturday and winning on Sunday.
“Yeah, what I learned was that you have to beat the master of consistency at his own game in order to win the championship,” O’Ward told me last Wednesday afternoon. “I think that’s the best way to put it. We just need to outscore him as much as we can every weekend. I think that’s the best thing we can do in order to have a shot at the championship at Long Beach.”
Dixon, did what he had to do in typical Dixon fashion last weekend himself. He qualified just 11th for Saturday’s race and sixth on Sunday. The box score shows finishes of eighth and seventh respectively. Not great days but not bad ones either.
Dixon, entered this weekend 36 points out of the lead. He leaves 36 points out with everyone else either gaining a lot of ground or losing. But there Dixon remains wildly consistent in gaining or losing nothing.
We’re going to have to remember this weekend later this season because if Dixon goes on a typical Scott Dixon run at any point of this season, then this could be the weekend that he wins the championship.
Then you have his teammate Alex Palou one spot ahead of him in second. Is it a disadvantage to be in a fight against your teammate for the title?
“No, that’s the opposite because I know he’s going to compete with the same car as me, so I know he’s going to compete with a really good car, and it’s going to be up to us,” Palou said of competing against Dixon, a teammate, for the title this year. “I would prefer him to be on another team so I could know that I have the best team around me.”
On the flip side though, he said that it’s also an advantage to know what Dixon is doing too and have that inside input as well.
“It’s super good to be able to do what he’s doing, to know the strategies they are doing, to know how he’s approaching the weekends,” he continued. “It’s been really helpful for me so far, and it’s going to still be really helpful.
“Yeah, we just keep on trying to do really good results during the race weekends, and we’ll be able to fight for the championship.”
How does Dixon see it?
“Yeah, it’s big, I think not just for that reason but for team moral,” Dixon said. “Seeing the 10 car get the victory at Barber was fantastic. A lot of people with a lot of smiles on their face. I think with Marcus, it’s been a long time coming, too. Finally everything kind of rolled his way. It worked out.
“It’s great for the team. As I said, for us have to three wins as a team, as a driver you definitely want to be more dominant than just having a single win, but for the team moral, I think development, everything, everybody’s pretty similar which is great. It shows that it’s working.
“Yeah, it’s huge. Huge for the team. Hopefully that continues for the rest of the season to make sure that we can capture some more wins.
“I think it makes it tougher for me. It’s a lot more people to learn off. I think especially with these compressed weekends, there’s so much that you can take from each driver. That’s even Jimmie included. Everybody does something just a little bit different.
“When you’re kind of pushing that momentum in one direction, and everybody’s kind of behind it and pushing, it makes a big difference for everyone.
“Yeah, I think it’s been great. I think in the past we’ve had similar situations that just maybe hasn’t rolled along as well for some of the other drivers, which has definitely been frustrating.
“Yeah, as a whole I think it’s huge for Chip, for the organization moving forward and for the future, but it also is a huge help to me, as well.
“I think for us, we’re very open. It’s always an open book at Ganassi. We don’t ever really split off in any way even for race strategy or anything like that. If you’re racing hard at the end, the only thing that Chip asks is you don’t take each other out, which for us doesn’t happen too often which is good and hopefully won’t happen in the future.
“Yeah, no, once you get to the track and to the race especially everybody is trying to win. Again, I think that helps the team in so many ways. If we can be 1-2-3-4, that’s what we’re going to do. Try to keep it going each weekend. So no team orders.”
See, Dixon started off last season with three straight wins and six top two results in his first eight races. He closed it with a top 10 in every race but only on one occurrence was that top 10 a podium. It happened in the season finale when he needed it to clinch a title.
This season, he started the year off with four straight top five results including a win in Texas. He quieted off the last four races, but if you look at what happened in those races and his results too, Dixon was doing Dixon things.
I mean, just dig deeper. He was third in Barber to start the season off with. He was fifth at St. Pete in a conservative weekend. He won the first race at Texas and a little bit of strategy kept him from sweeping the weekend in the Lonestar State. Still, he finished fourth.
In the GMR Grand Prix, he didn’t qualify well and without further cautions, he couldn’t make up for it. But, he’s not qualified well lately on the Indy road course anyways. For the Indy 500, he won the pole but was caught out by a fluke caution in the middle of the first pit sequence while having a battle for the lead. The best car was trapped a lap down due to an unfortunate circumstance and it cost him. Belle Isle he salvaged a weekend like he need to.
Now, we get to the meat of Dixon’s success. We go to Road America this weekend. He won the first race there last year and has four top fives, three of which on the podium and two of those a win, in his last five starts. After that, it’s to Mid-Ohio for where he has an astounding six wins including one in 2019. After a month off, we got to an inaugural street course in Nashville then back to the IMS road course to where he’s getting another shot. Dixon, has four top two finishes in his last seven starts on the 2.439-mile road course layout. Then we go to World Wide Technology Raceway to where Dixon has four top fives in his last five tries including three podiums.
In September we go to Portland to where Dixon was fifth in 2018, Laguna Seca to where Dixon was third in 2019 and then to Long Beach to wrap up the season where Dixon has four top four finishes in his last five tries on the scenic street course.
So, with those tracks ahead for him and he only being 36 points out and having only two drivers ahead of him in the standings now and each being in essentially their second years, one of which being his teammate, Dixon can put a lot of pressure on them by just being consistent.
He has 20 top 10 finishes in his last 22 tries and 27 in his last 30. Among his last 30 starts, he has seven wins, five runner-ups, 15 podiums and 19 top fives in that span.
Dixon is quiet now but could make big noise soon.