SALINAS, Calif — Scott Dixon just didn’t have it this weekend. The pace unfortunately wasn’t there. While he feels like he had pace to get out of the first round in qualifying on Saturday, I don’t necessarily think it would have equated to much on race day however.
When Josef Newgarden spun in the corkscrew in the opening round of qualifying, it only allowed for one timed lap. Dixon was held up during it and started 13th. His teammate rolled off 11th and won so it goes to show his pace just wasn’t there.
Dixon would finish 15th which cost him a shot at a record tying 7th championship.
Luckily, the Ice Man doesn’t get too wrapped up in the moments that got away. He never has. Point to an Indy speeding penalty and he’ll point you to his Nashville win. He should have won Indy but bad luck struck. He shouldn’t have won Nashville but good luck found him. He has always noted that a season will ebb and flow and you can’t get too high on the highs or low on the lows. It all works out in the end.
It’s why a record tying 7th NTT INDYCAR Series championship escaped him this year. While you can point to the start of the season to which he had just 3 top 5 finishes in the opening 8 races, you can also go in the direction that he had almost as many wins (2) in the final 9 races as he had top 5’s (3) in those opening 9 too.
Moral of the story is, he just wasn’t fast enough for the entirety of the year to seriously contend. That was the difference. It wasn’t the lack of talent. No one is better in this series than Dixon. It was qualifying (9 starts of 13th or worse) that put him playing from behind. It was that speeding penalty relegating him from 1st to 21st and going from 109 points to 33.
Just for whatever reason, this year didn’t work in his favor. Now, he’ll be back for him in a series that he’s honestly running out of things 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.
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. Now, the question is, will he ever win a 7th title?
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 finished in the top 4 in the final standings for the 6th straight year and 16th time in the last 17 seasons at that. 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.
Dixon, has reached victory lane in just three of his last 38 starts though too.
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 9 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 have been him going for No. 8 while leading the charge in the process.
Time is against him though for that 7th. 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.