Dixon on Indy 500 strategy, weather, and IndyCar aerokit

Five-time IndyCar champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon is expecting a tough fight to reach the front of this year’s Memorial Day Weekend classic, especially if it’s a “straight-up dogfight”, but approves of how difficult the current car is to drive.

Dixon on Indy 500 strategy, weather, and IndyCar aerokit
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Mike Hull
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

The Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda legend, who is third on the all-time Indy car race-winner list behind only AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti, will start only 18th on the grid for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, but he is aiming to be in the leading pack long before half-distance.

“We need to move forward fairly quickly; you don’t want to be leaving it until halfway through the race,” he commented. “You want to be up there within the first two or three stints.

“The downside is if you’re starting in a place you don’t want to be. Mistakes can be made easily, it can get three- or four-wide. So hopefully we can move forward. The car seems to be good on long runs.”

Although IndyCar revised the front wings for this year, and gave teams more options with aero pieces, Dixon is expecting the cars to remain difficult to drive as per last year’s race, the first race with the superspeedway iteration of the current universal aerokit – but says he doesn’t have a problem with that.

He said: “With the universal aerokit, the wings are more like trim tabs as opposed to [adjustments for] downforce levels. Everyone is locked into a similar area now. This year they added some aerodynamic pieces but as you can see, most of the teams picked similar things anyway. There’s just less room to have differences between cars.

“But I thought last year was a great race for the sheer fact that you saw the best driver in the best car win. Some of those years when pack racing was happening, it was basically just about whoever could take the biggest risk would have the advantage. I prefer to see someone like Will [Power] drive his arse off and get a victory that he deserved.”

A little later, Dixon commented: “It’s been interesting to hear people complain about how bad their cars are in traffic because I thought this year was a lot better than last year. I think for us, typically, we hope it’s going to be a hot race because it does magnify the car’s issues more… You will get a clearer view of if a car is good or bad.”

The current weather forecast for Sunday is not looking promising – at the very least, locals and experts (and local experts) are expecting the 103rd Running to be broken up by rain, even if it is completed in one day. However, given the vagaries of Indiana weather, and the fact that it can be raining in Indianapolis and clear over the iconic Speedway – or vice-versa – Dixon said that he’s trying to eliminate that worry from his mind. And, as he points out, there is no telling how Race Control may react, since the race can be called as final at any point past the halfway mark or, if the weather forecast looks more promising later on in the day, it can be restarted once the track is dry.

“Last year I think we were supposed to get rain all day and it never rained,” Dixon shrugged. “[Being a weather forecaster] is the only job where you can be wrong every day and still keep the job! Maybe it’s a good plan for me for my next job…

“You can’t focus on that. We have people on the team who will focus on that stuff but there’s no point for me. They’ll tell me if they think [bad weather] is coming.

“But then again, you don’t know how Race Control is going to call it either. We could get halfway and then sit around for three hours, dry the track and then go and finish the race. It’s daylight until 8 or 9 o’clock here. I’ve been in races like that where you’ve had a three-hour delay and you get back out there and you start racing again. You can’t dwell on that too much.”

There is much debate over how much progress Honda has made relative to Chevrolet on superspeedways in terms of outright power, given that again Chevy dominated qualifying, and the engine manufacturers were granted very few areas in which to modify their 2.2-liter V6 twin-turbos last winter. Honda’s strength has been in using less fuel – key in Alexander Rossi’s victory at Pocono last year – and Dixon suggested that may well be one of the keys to his hopes on raceday.

“It comes down to that always awkward stint and a half when there’s a caution and people go that way [waves arms in opposing directions],” he told Motorsport.com. “Last year we saw that. And we kind of did a bit of both, and I don’t know how but it kinda paid off in the end! We were sixth or seventh all day and we ended up third.

“I don’t think there’s a big enough difference on the fuel side, or the performance side, but it’s tough because we’ve seen it for a while now, that the engines are so mature now, there’s no easy fix. We’re seven years on one [engine] architecture…

“There are obvious ways to approach the race differently, to do it differently, and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to focus on the ways we can fix it rather than moaning about not being on the right side of [the horsepower balance].

“If it’s a straight-up dogfight, it’ll be much more difficult winning it that way, whereas if you’ve got the chance to play strategy or the chance to play the long run, we can do that.”

shares
comments
Rosenqvist feels confidence returning after Indy shunt

Previous article

Rosenqvist feels confidence returning after Indy shunt

Next article

McLaren will consider "strategic alliance" for Indy 500 return

McLaren will consider "strategic alliance" for Indy 500 return
Load comments
The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie Prime

The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie

Jeff Krosnoff was plucked out of obscurity to become a respected and highly popular professional in Japan, and then got his big break in CART Indy car for 1996. But a tragic accident at Toronto 25 years ago cut short a promising career and curtailed his regular teammate Mauro Martini's passion for racing.

IndyCar
Jul 14, 2021
The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review Prime

The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review

At the halfway point in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, we've had seven winners in eight races, spread between five teams – none of them Team Penske. In this unusual season, even by IndyCar standards, who’s excelling and who’s dragging their heels? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Jun 18, 2021
The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness Prime

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

Long-awaited wins for ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen in IndyCar and IMSA last weekend gave F1 a reminder of what it is missing. But with the new rules aimed at levelling the playing field, there’s renewed optimism that more drivers can have a rewarding result when their day of days comes

Formula 1
Jun 17, 2021
Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history Prime

Castroneves: How I kept it under control to make Indy 500 history

Helio Castroneves’ overwhelming vivaciousness outside the cockpit belies a hardcore racer who knows how to plot his moves – and then recall it all for us. A day after his fourth Indy 500 win, Helio explained his tactics to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Jun 2, 2021
How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status Prime

How 'chess master' Castroneves cemented his Indy legend status

Helio Castroneves joined AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears with the most Indianapolis 500 wins after sweeping around the outside of Alex Palou on the penultimate lap in a thrilling climax. In one race, he validated Michael Shank's and Jim Meyer's faith in him, and Helio himself discovered there's life after Penske after all.

IndyCar
Jun 1, 2021
Indy 500 preview: Will experience or youth be victorious? Prime

Indy 500 preview: Will experience or youth be victorious?

A quarter of the drivers racing in the 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500 are former winners - but are they the favourites? The veteran drivers largely impressed in qualifying - but there's also a plethora of young guns looking to secure victory at IndyCar's flagship race...

IndyCar
May 25, 2021
What will it take to get American drivers in Formula 1? Prime

What will it take to get American drivers in Formula 1?

The FIA says it wants American drivers in Formula 1, but would it take an IndyCar driver to transfer or does an American need to join the European junior ladder system to get there? By David Malsher-Lopez.

Formula 1
May 19, 2021
Why IndyCar is satisfying Grosjean’s appetite for his second life Prime

Why IndyCar is satisfying Grosjean’s appetite for his second life

After spending the majority of his 179-race Formula 1 career in middling to tail-end machinery, Romain Grosjean finds himself once again with an underdog team in IndyCar. While not without its challenges, he's relishing the more level playing field that means his Dale Coyne Racing crew can expect to claim a few scalps...

IndyCar
May 14, 2021