INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon led a race-high 84 laps and had his best shot since his first and thus far only Indianapolis 500 triumph in 2008 to add a second to his resume.
But despite scoring the pole position, he ended an unrepresentative fourth at the end of the 2015 edition, the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
The first thing that seemed to prove Dixon’s undoing early, was, ironically, his fuel mileage.
Dixon, the renowned fuel saving master, wound up pitting earlier than most of his counterparts in the early portion of the race because he was out front.
Still, he recycled to the front more often than not. Of his 84 laps led, he led 56 of the first 100 laps and only 28 of the last 100.
Dixon was engaged with two Team Penske teammates at any one time. Most of the day it was Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, and only in the latter portion of the race did eventual race winner Juan Pablo Montoya emerge as a contender along with Power.
Dixon and Power exchanged the lead in the final 15-lap dash, before Montoya came calling first on Lap 192, and then again on Lap 197.
Meanwhile Dixon fell back a position to fourth in the final four laps, with his own teammate Charlie Kimball getting ahead of him.
“I think we generally had a pretty good restart there. I was just trying to pace it,” Dixon said. “When I really needed to go, I just couldn’t turn the car. We were fighting a little bit with the car overheating, so we were trying to go over different ignition maps. There was definitely a lot going on.
“As the laps were counting down I was trying to make something happen. Every time I came to the apex at Turn Two or even Four toward the end, the front just wouldn’t hang on and I had to breathe it.”
Dixon, ever the consummate professional, congratulated his rivals on a great race.
“Congrats to Juan. He drove a hell of a race and it was a good comeback from where he came from,” he said. “Obviously Charlie did a good job too coming up to third. I’m real proud of the Team Target guys. They did a good job all month but unfortunately we came away with fourth.”
Asked what he thought he could change, Dixon said he wanted more front end grip.
“Probably would have gone more front wing or a pressure change or something to get a little more front end.
“I was OK when I was in second place, but if I dropped to third or fourth, it was keep the car turning middle off, and that’s what caught us out. We’ll come back. The Target team has been strong all year, but this one always hurts.”