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Milestone win part of Scott Dixon’s latest IndyCar surge

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Scott Dixon is looking for just a bit more consistency from start to finish on race weekends, even if he hasn’t placed out of the top 5 in more than a month.

Imagine what Dixon could accomplish the rest of this IndyCar season once he really feels like he’s in a groove behind the wheel of the No. 9 Honda.

It’s the kind of mindset that has helped make Dixon a four-time series champion. He won his 42nd IndyCar race last weekend to pull into a tie for third with Michael Andretti on the career list behind only A.J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52).

“For me, still being deep in it right now, it’s something I hope to reflect on when I get out of the sport,” Dixon said. “But just being on the short list right now with Andretti and Foyt is pretty crazy when you really look back and take a step back.”

The 37-year-old driver from New Zealand feels like there is room for improvement, though.

“It’s been a little tricky,” Dixon said about his season so far. “We’ve had some really good speeds, but we’ve probably lacked a little bit on consistency.”

He points to a few mistakes in qualifying runs. A second-place finish at the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 12 came after starting 18th on the grid.

The 16-year IndyCar veteran followed with a third-place finish at the Indianapolis 500. Dixon took the checkered flag in the opening race last weekend at Belle Isle and finished fourth in the second race.

Dixon is second in the points race behind Indy 500 winner Will Power, with fresh momentum heading into each of the next two stops on the schedule: this weekend at Fort Worth and June 24 at Road America in Wisconsin.

“Yeah, the last 3-4 weeks we’ve made a lot of points, which is good to see,” Dixon said.

“But it’s time to knuckle down,” he added. “We’ve definitely got to make the most of these summer-month races and try to get some good points.”

Dixon is in his 17th season with Chip Ganassi Racing, the longest tenure for a driver in team history. Ganassi managing director Mike Hull likened the Detroit win to Dixon’s first victory with Ganassi at Homestead in 2003.

“What Scott does so well is that he represents the culture of Chip Ganassi Racing,” Hull said after Belle Isle. “It’s something that you’ll look back on and say, ‘Man, that was awesome to be a part of.’ But for today and now, we’re happy to come home with the win.”

This season brought a new set of adjustments for Dixon, with Ganassi dropping from four teams to two and 23-year-old Ed Jones joining the fold as his new teammate.

Dixon said the transition has been easy with Jones, who he describes as “super laid-back, a really good kid, a lot of fun to work with.”

Last week, Jones tied a career best by finishing third in the second race at Belle Isle. It seems like he’s putting any advice that he has received from Dixon to good use.

“Scott winning the race (Saturday) and then me on the podium … we’re just aiming to bring the team forward,” Jones said then.

One noticeable difference for Dixon related to the Ganassi changes is that it’s not as noisy at the trailers with former teammate Tony Kanaan now with A.J. Foyt Racing.

“I think the thing I’ve commented on the most is probably how quiet it’s been without TK. He’s a huge character and we had a ton of laughs with him around,” Dixon said.

He also liked the luxury of being able to study the volumes of data that came with having three teammates. It was especially helpful over longer, three-day weekends at road and street courses, or at Indianapolis, when there is more time to prepare.

Still, the adjustment to a two-car team seems to be going just fine for the steady Dixon.

“It’s just a different approach. I actually enjoyed the fact that you had so much stuff to look at, which has changed now some,” he said. “But yeah, I love the teammates I had for the last two, three, four years, and it’s a bit of a change now, but I’m really enjoying working with Ed.”

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.