IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Scott Dixon

AP
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MotorSportsTalk will look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field driver-by-driver, a month on from the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

We start off with the champion, Scott Dixon.

Scott Dixon, No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 3rd Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 4 Podiums, 11 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 97 Laps Led, 8.9 Avg. Start, 8.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: Champion, 3 Wins, 2 Poles, 4 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 306 Laps Led, 6.1 Avg. Start, 7.7 Avg. Finish

Few drivers could realistically overcome a 47-point deficit in one race to score the championship but then again, few drivers are Scott Dixon. And while it took a perfect storm of circumstances to occur – Juan Pablo Montoya making a rare unforced error, the Ganassi team moving Dixon forward in the pits and double points being on offer – Dixon still had to deliver the goods, and did so nicely in the Sonoma season finale.

The championship capped off, if not a roller coaster season, a season that probably wasn’t Dixon’s best to date. When the New Zealander said after Sonoma that really no one had a stellar season, he was right, and he probably was including himself in that statement. Although he had a series-high three wins, he only had one other podium, and that spoke to how diverse the year was and the fact no one really pulled away.

For while his early season wins at Long Beach and Texas were good, Texas notable thanks to his crew making the right call on downforce, sometimes it seemed Dixon was either on the bad side of caution flags or relatively anonymous during the weekend. That last bit seems hard to type. Relative “meh” results from Toronto through Milwaukee followed the Texas win, and Iowa was nearly the title lost except it became the title gained after his crew got him back out with enough left to score one more point.

He had similar bad luck at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio but in both cases made something out of nothing. Despite getting speared at Turn 1 at Indy, Dixon rebounded to 10th, and despite losing the lead on an ill-timed yellow at Mid-Ohio he salvaged a fourth. It’s results like that, where you overcome adversity, where titles are truly won or lost, and Dixon’s drive even on tough days shown through nicely. Things like getting a position on the last lap at Milwaukee, for example, may not seem like much at the time but it becomes important later on.

The fact it was Dixon who picked up the title eased the sting of the double points effect. Had it been one of the longer shots who were outside a standard race win points gap, there might have been louder cries that double points fully affected things. Dixon and Montoya weren’t separated by much throughout the year, and Dixon will certainly be viewed as a fitting champion.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III