Dixon’s doubleheader dominance may deliver him 2013 IndyCar title

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Six days and roughly 12 hours of racing this season may be the ultimate key to Scott Dixon winning the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

In the three doubleheader race weekends at Detroit, Toronto and Houston, Dixon scored three wins, six top-four finishes in six races, and amassed 263 points.

No one else even came close.

Detroit was expected to be something of a wild card for IndyCar doubleheaders. At the time, racing legend Mario Andretti told me in an exclusive MotorSportsTalk interview it was a gamble for IndyCar to try doubleheaders; potentially, having two races on the same weekend would detract from having just one featured race.

And, with Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud scoring surprise victories, it certainly seemed like no one would really gain the upper hand in the doubleheaders. But Dixon and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team finished fourth in both events, and would only surge from there.

A one-day test at Sebring held in late June was pivotal to the team’s success from that point forward. Gains made to the team’s damper program and a further understanding of the new-for-2013 Firestone tire compounds propelled the team into another stratosphere on street courses.

And because they unloaded fast in both Toronto and Houston, Dixon was unstoppable. He swept the Toronto doubleheader weekend and earned a $100,000 bonus from SONAX for the achievement; he damn near did the same this weekend at Houston but was unable to pass Will Power late in Race 2 on Sunday. As it was, Helio Castroneves’ weekend from hell created a 74-point shift in the standings. Dixon went from 49 down entering the weekend to 25 up leaving.

But he has the doubleheaders to thank for his overall gain in the standings this year. On the doubleheader weekends, Dixon scored 263 points, and Conway was second with 180. Castroneves scored only 143, seventh most in the field.

A full breakdown of each driver’s points total and doubleheader results are below.

1.  Scott Dixon, 263 (4,4,1,1,1,2)
2.  Mike Conway, 180 (1,3,7,7,16,9)
3.  Simon Pagenaud, 169 (12,1,9,12,4,6)
4.  Dario Franchitti, 159 (6,5,3,4,15,15)
5.  Sebastien Bourdais, 155 (24,11,2,3,8,5)
6.  Justin Wilson, 154 (3,22,11,8,3,4)
7.  Helio Castroneves, 143 (5,8,6,2,18,23)
8.  Will Power, 139 (8,20,15,18,12,1)
9.  James Jakes, 128 (10,2,12,23,6,17)
10. Charlie Kimball, 124 (14,7,21,6,11,8)
11. Marco Andretti, 119 (20,6,4,9,13,20)
12. Simona de Silvestro, 116 (16,24,10,14,2,10)
13. Josef Newgarden, 113 (7,16,23,11,5,13)
14. Graham Rahal, 109 (9,10,20,13,7,18)
15. E.J. Viso, 108 (17,17,14,5,9,16)
16. James Hinchcliffe, 100 (15, 19,8,21,24,3)
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 95 (2,18,18,19,20,21)
18. Sebastian Saavedra, 91 (22,10,16,15,14,12)
19. Tristan Vautier, 88 (11,14,19,16,22,11)
20. Tony Kanaan, 87 (13,12,5,24,21,24)
21. Ed Carpenter, 67 (18,15,13,22,23,22)
22. Takuma Sato, 65 (19,23,24,20,17,14)
23. Alex Tagliani, 49 (23,21,17,10,DNS x2)
24. Oriol Servia, 37 (DNS x4,19,7)
25. Ryan Briscoe, 34 (21,13,22,DNS x3)
26. Luca Filippi, 31 (DNS x4,10,19)
27. Carlos Munoz, 13 (DNS x3,17,DNS x2)
28. AJ Allmendinger, 10 (25,25,DNS x4)

Brown: Dennis would have made same decision on McLaren-Honda split

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Zak Brown believes former McLaren team boss Ron Dennis would have made the same decision to cut ties with struggling Formula 1 engine partner Honda had he still been in charge at the team in 2017.

McLaren executive director Brown helped engineer a deal for the team to split with Honda at the end of the 2017 season after three tough seasons that had seen the Japanese manufacturer offer little in the way of performance or reliability.

The decision split opinion, with McLaren spurning a significant annual financial injection from Honda in order to link up with Renault, believing its on-track fortunes had to be prioritized over its commercial interests.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Brown was asked if he believed Dennis – McLaren’s long-running team chief before stepping down at the end of 2016 – would have made the same decision to cut ties with Honda.

“I think he would have,” Brown said.

“He was here when those conversations were ongoing and I think Ron always has and always will have the best interests of McLaren in his heart.

“He is Mr. McLaren. It burns him inside as much as us not to see us winning races.”

Brown also elaborated on the decision to break off the much-lauded relationship with Honda, saying the first signs of trouble with the 2017 power unit were clear in pre-season.

After a number of attempts to try and rectify the situation, Brown and his fellow team bosses felt there was no alternative but to end the Honda deal for 2018.

“We knew we were in trouble in testing in Barcelona and we worked really hard for six months to try and find solutions that would give us confidence that we’d be much more competitive in 2018,” Brown said.

“Ultimately, after trying many different things and many different ways we felt we couldn’t get there.

“Three years is a long time in Formula 1 and so we needed to change the direction to get our team back at the top.”