After crashing out Saturday in the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader, Scott Dixon admitted he saw his chance of repeating as NTT IndyCar Series champion slipping away.
A day later, after slipping into the cool Scott Fountain water to celebrate his 45th career win, Dixon is refreshed and reborn as he fights his way back into the title picture. Heading this week to Texas Motor Speedway, where he is defending winner of the DXC Technology 600, the New Zealander can sense the excitement of a bid for a sixth series crown.
“We had a really strong PNC Bank car (at Texas) last year and managed to win the race,” Dixon said. “Hopefully, some of that momentum along with (winning at) Detroit Sunday can help us get back in the championship fight as we approach the middle stretch of the season.”
Following his unforced error and last-place finish Saturday at Detroit, Dixon trailed points leader Josef Newgarden by 92 points. The tables turned the next day, however, when Dixon led the final 21 laps to the checkered flag and Newgarden was involved in a tangle with James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi that relegated him to 18th place. It allowed Dixon to slice 40 points off the deficit to the leader.
“It was nice to halve that almost,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. “At least we're kind of in the mix. But as you can see, it changes so quickly. We'll just keep our head down and try to make the best of it.”
Dixon sits fourth in the standings after eight of 17 races, trailing Newgarden, Rossi and Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. Last year at this time, he was in second place, just five points behind Will Power. Dixon then won at Texas and Toronto, and he finished lower than fifth only once in the final nine races.
It was that steady effort that delivered championship No. 5, something the 38-year-old believes will need to happen again in 2019.
“This year I think is going to be another year, especially from this point, (that) you're going to have to be really consistent to get a championship,” he said. “It's how we won last year. We did have three wins, but we were able to turn bad weekends into good ones.
“We've seen that from Josef (thus far in 2019). Some pretty average qualifying positions (that he) and the team have been able to pull out some great podiums, some big wins when they really needed it.”
Dixon is a three-time winner at Texas, and each time he’s been victorious on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval – 2008, 2015 and 2018 – it paved the past to the championship. The trio in front of him in the 2019 standings has zero Texas wins, though Pagenaud and Rossi finished behind Dixon on last year’s podium.
Weekend action begins with a two-hour evening practice in race-like conditions, starting at 8 p.m. ET and streaming live on NBC Sports Gold. A final practice runs from 3-4 p.m. Friday and also streams on NBC Sports Gold.
Qualifying, following the single-car, two-lap format, airs live at 6:30 p.m. Friday on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.
Race coverage starts at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.