Scott Dixon was the biggest mover of the Desert Diamond West Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway, improving from a starting position of 18th to finish fourth in Saturday night’s race.
Dixon knew the race was going to be rough on Friday when he qualified 10 spots worse than he ever has at Phoenix. On two previous occasions on this track, Dixon started as high as eighth and won in 2016 and finished runner-up in 2004.
It took more than a fast car to earn his fourth career top five on this track. It took a complete effort from the team.
“We just had a smooth race,” Dixon told NBC’s Robin Miller on pit road after the race. “No major problems – kept picking off people when we needed to. Got a lot on the stops, a little bit on the exchanges too.”
Dixon benefitted from quick service on the final pit stop. With three drivers staying out on old tires during a caution for a crash involving Ed Jones with 21 laps remaining, Dixon was the second driver to leave pit road behind eventual winner Josef Newgarden.
Dixon restarted fifth and picked up one more spot in the mad dash to the checkers.
“These are the weekend when you really fight for championships,” Dixon said. “When you don’t have the best car, you try to salvage the best you can out of it. Tonight wasn’t really my night but big credit to the crew and everybody on the strategy side.”
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Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.