Scott Dixon is back again. This is a familiar place for him and that destination is to be coming down to the season finale in the NTT INDYCAR Series and trying to win a championship. The New Zealand native enters Sunday’s race at Laguna Seca just 20 points out of the lead and in a striking distance to surpass both Penske’s in front of him and tie AJ Foyt for most titles ever in the history of Indy Car racing.
“Anything is possible,” he noted. “I think it can be as simple as somebody having a mechanical issue. That’s the tough part. I think it’s pretty cool that we don’t need any resets or any chase championships or anything like that. It always comes down to the wire in the INDYCAR Series. It’s fun to be a part of.
“I think the one in ’15 with Montoya, it was a very outside chance. Maybe because it was double points. It was 35 maybe or so around that points gap that we needed.
“It will be interesting. It will be a fun race hopefully, and we’ll be, as I’ve always said, trying as hard as possible until we can’t do anything more about it. Yeah, we’ll hope for the best.”
Dixon has 6 of them but wants a 7th badly. It’s why he keeps coming back for more with nothing left to prove. 2nd most wins, 2nd most podiums, 2nd most runner-ups, 2 most top 5’s, 2nd most Indy 500 poles, fastest ever Indy 500 pole speed, you name it, what more is there left to prove in an era to where it’s as challenging as ever to win here.
Heck, even in a year to where it could have gotten away from him by that late speeding penalty in the Indy 500, Dixon has stormed back with 10 top 10 finishes in the next 10 races after including 7 of which in the top 5. He had just 2 top 5 finishes prior.
For a driver that said early this summer that he didn’t feel there were on a championship level yet, he also proved that you never can count him out. What did he find in July to propel him back to a familiar place?
However, if he doesn’t win the championship on Sunday, will he ever any time after?
There’s no doubt that his career is winding down. I mean he’s been doing this for two decades now. His wins aren’t coming quite as often. But he still finds himself in a position for his 6th straight finish in the top 4 of points and 16th time in the last 17 years. Do that long enough you’ll find titles. But can he keep doing that?
His first three titles came in five-year increments. 2003, 2008, 2013. Then, he exploded with championships won in 2015, 2018 and again in 2020. That’s three championships in a six year span including 2 of the last 5. Can he pick up another this year?
Dixon, has reached victory lane in just three of his last 38 starts.
What’s crazy is, from July 2019 through August 2020 (Gateway 1), Dixon had 11 podiums in a 15 race span. Among those 11 top three finishes were five wins and five runner-ups. Over the last 38 races, Dixon has had just 3 wins (Texas 1 in 2021, Toronto, Nashville), one runner-up (Nashville 2021) and only 8 podiums.
That’s why he’s in the position that he’s in today.
The thing is, despite being in this position, it’s not like his season has been all that “off.” Dixon still has 20 top five finishes and 33 top 10’s. The only thing absent has been turning those top fives results into podiums.
But, the thing also is, if cautions and/or bad luck came differently too, Dixon may not be behind either. He may be the one in the drivers seat instead.
For Texas 2 last year, Dixon was well in control of a weekend sweep until Jack Harvey brought out an ill timed caution for him while he was leading. Same thing in the Indy 500 when Stefan Wilson’s pit road crash on the opening sequence cost Dixon dearly. He hadn’t pit yet and ran out of fuel while coming to pit road. His car wouldn’t refire and he’d lose a lap as a result of trying to get it going again. After dominating the Month of May, he’d finish 17th instead. He was caught in a crash not of his doing in Gateway last year too while running in the top 10.
Just think of where he’d be if those three instances went differently. This year, think of what happens if he doesn’t speed on his final pit stop while leading the Indy 500.
That’s why I say that if luck flipped its script for Dixon, he’d be on the verge of a historic weekend. This could be him going for No. 8 while leading the charge in the process.
Time is against him though for that 8th. Just 10 times has someone won the title at 41 years of age or older. Three drivers were 42. One was 43 and four more were 44. No one was 45 while two drivers won at 46.
Among the drivers to be crowned a champion at 41 years old and up, only one came since 1990. With his stats declining this year and the trends not being on his side, this is a legitimate question.