Ever have that ‘so close, yet so far away’ feeling? So annoying. So frustrating.
Now put yourself in the racing shoes of Scott Dixon, who’s had to deal with that feeling – a lot – at Barber Motorsports Park.
It’s not just that the serpentine road course – site of this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) – remains one of a handful of tracks on the current Verizon IndyCar Series schedule that he’s yet to win on.
It’s that he’s come as close as he can get to scratching Barber off that list for each of the last four seasons.
The series’ inaugural race there in 2010 saw him finish second to Helio Castroneves. Then in 2011 and 2012, he was led home each time by Will Power.
Last year saw him push Ryan Hunter-Reay to the very end, but he ultimately lost out to the American by six-tenths of a second – prompting Dixon to quip that he needed to “buy a bridesmaid’s dress tonight.”
The four consecutive runner-ups at Barber mark just the second instance since 1956 that an IndyCar driver has done that at the same racetrack.
The other instance came when Dixon finished second from 2006-2009 at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway – although he likely didn’t mind the 2008 runner-up as it helped him clinch the second of his three IndyCar championships.
So what does Dixon make of Barber? He certainly doesn’t like all the near-misses, but he also knows that he’s remained one of the bigger threats there.
“I think a couple of the races where we finished second or one of them, we gave it a pretty hard-fought battle to get there,” Dixon said recently. “But I know two for sure…Last year, we kind of went off-strategy, got caught up in some traffic and that really hurt us – and I think we had the fastest car.
“And then the year before that, with Will, [he] got us on a pit stop exchange. We stayed out a lap longer and got caught behind a slower car, so those ones are tougher to sort of leave behind. Yet the fact that we’ve been able to be on the podium every time we’ve been there is still something good.
“We just need to work on that one extra spot.”
Dixon has earned 162 points at Barber in his career, which puts him second only to Power’s 167. The Iceman’s efforts in last year’s doubleheaders may have gotten him Title No. 3, but going P2 for a fourth time in the Heart of Dixie didn’t hurt him either.
As for the here and now, Dixon could use a good result after his pit stop for fuel with two laps to go at Long Beach not only enabled Mike Conway to score the upset win, but knocked him to a 12th place result.
It wasn’t a big hit to his early championship hopes. He’s a tolerable 42 points behind Power in sixth, and after turning a 49-point deficit into a 25-point edge going into last year’s season finale at Fontana, his current deficit should feel like nothing to him.
But he’s also been around long enough to know that in a series this tightly competitive, it’s never good to leave points on the table.
And that ought to give Dixon an added sense of motivation this weekend.
Not that finally getting rid of that ‘so close, yet so far away’ feeling wasn’t enough.