After another frustrating weekend five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon says the Chip Ganassi Racing team still has a tough job ahead to clinch the title at St Petersburg.
Following on from two 10th place finishes at Mid-Ohio, Dixon could only bag a ninth and an eighth from the two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course – a venue where he won back in July.
Dixon still remains in command even if Newgarden wins the season finale at St Petersburg and gains all the bonus points for fastest lap, pole and most laps led, with Dixon only needing to come home ninth. Unlike in recent years, this year’s finale does not offer double points.
“Still a lot of hard work to do there,” Dixon told NBC after the second race this weekend in which he struggled to eighth. “As always, the NTT IndyCar Series comes down to the final race, even without double points, and the lead that we had – over 100 points at one stage.
“It’s nice to be on the leading side of the points at this stage. It’s still a big margin, so he has to get most laps led, all the four bonus points and we have to finish ninth. But they have been pretty good in St Pete in previous years. We’re definitely going to have our work cut out.”
With the second race at Indianapolis being only 75 laps (Friday’s was 85 laps) most drivers committed to a two-stop strategy with a lot of fuel-saving required, as the pitlane delta was 37 seconds.
That meant Dixon had to climb from 15th purely on pace rather than strategic sleight of hand, and he was hampered in his endeavours by an oversteering car which also suffered damage to its floor in a collision with Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“I was loose the whole race,” he said. “It was because of that I think I made contact a couple of times – once with Hunter-Reay and getting connected with Charlie Kimball at some point there.
“We tried everything in that race, we were flat-out, a pretty basic two-stopper so there wasn’t much to do [on strategy].”
Newgarden had to climb from ninth on the grid after a disappointing showing in qualifying, but he saved enough fuel that he was able to take advantage of his car’s inherent pace to finish fourth. However, with no caution periods, he was unable to catch up with the lead trio of Will Power, Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi.
“We were a little shy of where we needed to be,” said the two-time and defending champion to NBC. “If we’d have had a phenomenal day like we had yesterday, we’d be in really good shape.
“We were just mediocre today. I think we had a car to compete with Will and Herta and Rossi, but we just didn’t start high up enough.”
Assessing his St. Petersburg prospects, he said: “We’re in with a shout, we can go to St Pete now and try and win this championship. I just wish we were in a little closer position.”