Dixon could get creative with the Sunday strategy

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Scott Dixon finished qualifying for the NTT P1 Award on Saturday and quickly donned a statement hat.

As the hat indicates, Dixon and his # 9 crew of Chip Ganassi Racing PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda are series champions until proven guilty.

Of course, Dixon has a tough road ahead of him to reach a seventh NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship record, but there are enough points available over the next two races to suggest that veteran series leader and 49-time teammate Alex Palou points is not out of action at the moment.

Obviously, it will take work – and luck – but Dixon may have rocked his team’s race plans for the Monterey Firestone Grand Prix on Sunday during his post-qualifying television interview.

“From (the eighth starting position) we’re probably going to… get out of the strategy a little bit,” he said. “We’ll have to see how this plays out (out).

“It’s so easy to overturn these races with just one warning, and with so many cars coming off (the track) this weekend, there is definitely a chance that it will happen. If you can catch it correctly, it will propel you straight into the lead.

That’s a bit like what happened last weekend at the Portland International Raceway. Dixon and Palou (No.10 NTT Data Honda) had to take evasive action in the opening turn and were therefore sent deep into the peloton on restart for shortening the turn. They took advantage of the situation by stopping just before the race turned green again, and the flow of the race then put them back in the lead. Palou won, with Dixon third.

At Dixon’s point on overturning “those races,” Palou was able to gain 35 points over Pato O’Ward, the No.5 Arrow Chevrolet McLaren SP driver who entered the weekend from Portland with a lead of 10 points. Now Palou leads by 25.

Following Sunday’s race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the series heads to the California coast for the Long Beach Acura Grand Prix, which will end the season next weekend, a race that Dixon landed four podiums, including a victory in 2015.

History suggests Dixon will struggle to win Sunday at Laguna Seca as 21 of the 23 INDYCAR race winners at this venue came from the top three starting positions. It’s 91.3 percent.

“It is what it is,” Dixon said of the odds against him. “As we’ve seen in St. Louis (at the World Wide Technology Raceway) and also in Portland, it can change pretty quickly. We’re going to keep our heads down and keep pushing.

The good news for Dixon: almost all the riders mentioned the likelihood of severe tire degradation during the race. This increases the possibility of the ground getting mixed up, and Dixon has shown over the years a propensity to be on the right side of strategy.

Ericsson always has a goal to achieve

Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing’s No.8 Huski Chocolate Honda) faces an even longer odds than Dixon, as he enters Sunday’s race 75 points behind Palou in fifth place. But he said his goal was to win at least once more this season, which would give him three wins.

“I think seventh is a good qualifying,” he said. “Obviously when you’re at a (Firestone Fast Six) location you want to be a part of it, there’s no question about it. But I think we’ve had a good car all weekend, and we can definitely play from there in the race.

Only Palou has won more races this season than Ericsson.

“To win the championship for us now is a bit too far, but we said we want to win one more race before the end of the season and we can win from seventh place so that’s what we are aiming for “, did he declare. .

Tips

  • NTT P1 Award winner Colton Herta (# 26 Gainbridge Honda from Andretti Autosport w / Curb-Agajanian) said the quote of the day: “I know Mario Andretti was sitting at the pit lane,” he said. he declares. “I’m sure he’s really happy that I’m taking pole at Will Power.” Andretti’s advantage over Power in the career poles is only five (67-62).
  • O’Ward drives with his big boss on the spot. Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, became even more important with the INDYCAR team when McLaren acquired 75 percent of the Indianapolis-based operations earlier this year.
  • Max Chilton (No.59 Carlin Chevrolet) qualified 10th, having his best start to the season. He qualified 11th in last week’s race at Portland International Raceway. “Really, really good for us as a one-car team,” he said. “We’re one of the few teams that (haven’t) tested here as well.”
  • Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing # 15 United Rentals Honda) will start 12th, but he should probably start higher. He was penalized for causing a warning when he bounced off a curb at Turn 6 and spun through gravel. Photographs showed his right rear tire peeling off the ground as the car bottomed out. “It’s mine,” he said. “I was pushing too hard.”
  • In the battle for the title of Rookie of the Year, Romain Grosjean (No.51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) will start 13th with Scott McLaughlin (No.3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) 16th. McLaughlin is ahead of Grosjean by 38 points.
  • Helio Castroneves (Honda # 06 Meyer Shank Racing) continues to cover “new” tracks. Yes, he raced at Laguna Seca, but it’s been 20 years. In 2000, he won pole for the Penske team. He will start Sunday’s race from 22nd position (out of 27 car-driver combinations).
  • Longtime Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew member Larry Faust is too tough for an air pistol. Faust proved it on Saturday when he was hit in the head while behind the pit wall during qualifying, but he was wearing a helmet and was back at work shortly after the incident.
  • Kyle Kirkwood took a big step towards victory in the Indy Lights Championship by winning Saturday’s race and taking pole for Sunday’s race. He is ahead of David Malukas, who finished fourth in Saturday’s race, by eight points. Malukas finished 9.7 seconds behind Kirkwood, who won for the eighth time this season. The two title contenders will start together in first place for Sunday’s 60-lap race (1 p.m. ET).


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