Dixon looks to complete career California track sweep

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He won at Long Beach earlier this year, and he won at Sonoma last fall (also in 2007).

So on Saturday, Scott Dixon has a shot now to complete a career sweep of the three California race tracks that currently make up the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, if he can deliver a win Saturday afternoon in the MAVTV 500 at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway.

Asked whether it would mean anything to have a single state “triple crown,” as you were, the driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet replied that it doesn’t mean more or less than any other win would mean.

“Always. You always want to win, no matter what track it is. It’s rewarding definitely the first time you maybe get to have a shot at winning,” Dixon told reporters during a teleconference Wednesday.

“Fontana, we’ve had mixed results there. Last year we were very dominant I think with both cars. T.K. (Tony Kanaan) did a phenomenal job capturing the win late in the race, to take that.

“I think we’ve done well on ovals so far this year. The car was very good at Indy, despite the overheating of the engine at the end of the race that cost us another shot at the 500. And in Texas, both the 9 and the 10 were definitely the class of the field.”

Fontana will be a different ballgame for the field this year, shifting to a day race after it has traditionally been a night race in the past.

“We’ll have to see how it goes for Fontana this weekend, but typically a track I think the team does quite well at. Hopefully we can continue that trend,” Dixon said.

“Obviously different conditions this year going from a night race to a day race. It should hopefully be not too hot. Looks like the temperatures are kind of mild for this time of year.

“But I think degradation and trying to maintain pace over a stint is going to be the tough situation, especially with the track temp being higher during the day.”

Dixon’s crew’s decision to run a higher downforce setup at Texas Motor Speedway paid dividends as the New Zealander captured his second win of 2015 there.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.