While Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou celebrated his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in the last three years, no one could deny that Dixon ended 2023 as arguably one of the top drivers in the series.
Over the final seven races of the season, Dixon outscored Palou, 268-239, including taking three wins in the final four races. Six-time series champion Dixon thinks the work of new lead engineer Ross Bunnell and his team was a big reason behind that late surge.
“Yeah, finished really well,” Dixon said. “I think we got off to a little bit of a slow start in some ways, and the season when you look at it was fairly consistent, but definitely came on full song later in the year. I think working with Ross and having some stability there has been really nice.”
That’s one underrated aspect of racing that many fail to recognize. The driver receives all the glitz and glamor, but this is a team sport. Even a legend like Dixon, winner of 56 INDYCAR SERIES races, can’t carry a team alone.
The engineering and strategy group on the pit road timing stand for Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda had changed in each of the past three seasons. The slower start to last season was a byproduct of that.
Once Dixon, Bunnell and the engineering team started to jell and the timing stand understood what Dixon wanted and vice versa, the wins and results quickly came.
“I think everybody kind of just got into their flow,” Dixon said. “They felt a lot more comfortable. I think when you're changing a lot of people in the stand and the people that are involved there, it gets difficult to really – for each other to understand themselves, I think, or get the confidence, as well. I think that really started to develop later. To have that stability I think has been really good, and he's (Bunnell) done a really good job.”
The proof is in the stats. Dixon began the 2023 season with an average finishing position of ninth through the first six races. Over the final 11 events, it dropped to an eye-popping 3.36.
“Obviously, to win the last three or four races was huge,” Dixon said.
With the same personnel back on the timing stand for 2024, plus Chip Ganassi Racing finishing 1-2 in points and producing the Rookie of the Year last year, the aura around the organization is as high as ever as the series heads to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding on Sunday, March 10.
Dixon ranks second on the all-time wins list (56), runner-up finishes (50) and podium results (136). He’s well within striking distance of being the all-time leader in each being just 11 wins shy of A.J. Foyt for most wins, six runner-up finishes short of Mario Andretti for tops in that category and only eight podiums away from tying Andretti.
His 203 top-five finishes rank tops ever. His next championship will tie him with Foyt for most all-time, too.
“Stats are tough,” Dixon said. “As I always say, it becomes a topic of conversation when hopefully you get a win or something like that. For me, it's pretty simple. You've just got to keep trying to win, and then those things come along with it.
“It's amazing to look back on some moments and see what we have achieved as a team and as a group and even with my family and things like that.
“Plain and simple, winning is fun, so you've got to try and keep doing it. The stats I hope – as I've always said, when you walk away, hopefully you're happy with what you've achieved.”