Dixon ‘over the moon’ after losing debate leads to second Texas win (VIDEO)

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FORT WORTH – Thirty minutes before the start of the Firestone 600, Scott Dixon was moaning.

He hadn’t gotten his way.

Sitting seventh on the starting grid, Dixon knew the front four cars, three of them belonging to Team Penske, had low-downforce settings simialar to what Dixon wanted.

The three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion had engaged in a 24-hour debate with Chris Simmons, the engineer on his No. 9 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Following the final Friday night practice session for the Firestone 600, Dixon wanted low downforce, Simmons wanted high.

Dixon thought the debate had gone his way.

“Then at about 1:00 this afternoon I got a text message from Chris Simmons saying we were going the other way,” Dixon said Saturday night. “Then I went and saw him and tried to push him to go back.”

Dixon’s argument didn’t work. After leading a race-high 97 laps and winning his 37th career IndyCar race, he wasn’t moaning. In victory lane, Dixon was “over the moon.”

“You put yourself in a situation to race hard at the end of the night with some good speed and we actually put a lot more (downforce) on,” Dixon said.

The debate went back and forth. We were thinking about splitting the cars as far as (downforce) levels and things like that. But in hindsight, I’m glad they understood what they were doing. That’s why they do what they do. I just drive the car.”

Dixon drove his way to his second win at Texas Motor Speedway, the first coming in 2008. His second win of 2015 gained him 20 points on championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya.

“At the start of the race I think we got a little bit too far back in the pack,” Dixon said.  “With the understeer we already had, it just built more.  By the middle run, we just had no front tires left on the car.

source: Getty Images

“That’s where I think the team did a really good job through the night.”

Dixon’s strategist, Mike Hull said he believed three of the four Penske cars were running 10 percent less downforce than his car.

“As Scott said, the first go there, the first run, we were terrible,” Hull said. “The one that raced with us all night (Castroneves) was probably halfway between our downforce level and the other three cars.”

Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan took the lead for the second on Lap 103 and by Lap 110, Dixon was in second, remaining less than a second behind Kanaan for the next 30 laps.

“I knew obviously with the speed and how Tony had moved up there that the car was good because we weren’t too different, you know, especially on the levels of downforce,” Dixon said. “The mechanical side was a little bit different, but fairly close. I knew once we got the balance right, we could be up there with him, probably duel it out with him towards the end.”

On Lap 139 Kanaan hit pit road and Dixon assumed the lead for the first time. The rest of the 248-lap race, outside of green flag pit stop sequences, belonged to Dixon. He would get his dual with Kanaan but the Brazillian was never able to retake the point position. Dixon ultimately finished with a 7.8 second lead after green flag stops.

“Mid to latter part of the race, we were running a lot of flat-out laps,” Dixon said. “That was a transition where I thought there might be a crossover with some of the other guys that were trimmed out. We were able to manage the tires in the last 10 laps of a stint where it really counted, and we didn’t have much falloff, and that’s really what made the difference.”

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance
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LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).