Dixon disappointed, stays hopeful of “different” Laguna race

Scott Dixon remains optimistic that the high tire degradation at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca can throw up some surprises, as he attempts to recover from mid-grid starting slot for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s six-time champion, who is still in the running to match AJ Foyt’s all time record seventh IndyCar title, was left wrongfooted after fellow title-rival Josef Newgarden spun and stalled in Q1 Group 1, bringing out a red flag. As the clock ran out, IndyCar granted the remaining drivers one last chance – an out lap and one flyer – to solve their predicament.

However, while Scott McLaughlin and Marcus Ericsson – both also mathematically in the championship hunt – managed to generate enough tire temperature to graduate to Q2, Dixon’s efforts were stymied by Kyle Kirkwood of AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet who was ahead of him on track preparing for his qualifying run.

“We went out [initially] on new blacks and actually took a bit of time to get some speed out of it,” he said. “The #14 kept backing us up as well.

“Came in for the reds, basically we had one lap, and the #14’s out lap was just so slow. We didn’t really get any temperature into the tire until we were halfway through the run, so maybe I should’ve held back a bit further. I thought he was going to go with such a big gap to the #15 [Graham Rahal] in front of him. 

“Ultimately, we’re talking about missing it by less than a tenth which is frustrating because the car felt comfortable and had more speed in it. Unfortunately we needed another half lap or a lap.”

Firestone has brought a new more grippy compound of alternate tires to Laguna Seca this year, and the abrasive Laguna Seca surface is causing drivers struggles to make them last longer than two hot laps. But Dixon says this may work in his favor.

Asked by NBC how he plans to move forward from 13th on the grid, he replied: “I think strategy was always going to be key for this one, especially with how bad the red tire is. Even the black, for that matter, is going to be a struggle to do a full stint on those.

“It’s a very slippery, low-grip track, and that’s going to play into more cautions and the factor of flipping a strategy. You’re probably going to have to do a four-stopper.

“We’ll see what happens, everything’s to play for. This year might be a bit different from a typical Monterey.” 

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