Even while leading GP, Scott Dixon knew ‘we’re going to get hosed here’

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With a 5-second lead and five laps remaining, it’s natural to expect a five-time series champion would feel confident about winning the IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Scott Dixon knew better.

“With about 10 laps to go, I’m like, ‘We’re going to get hosed here,’” said the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who led a race-high 39 of 85 laps but still finished second in the IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “The front tires, I don’t know if we changed the front wing or whatever we did in that pit stop, but we just had no front grip and had to stop the car too much to really keep time.”

Dixon was in command for much of the race after taking the lead on Lap 16 with quite possibly the best pass of the season – a third to first maneuver past teammate Felix Rosenqvist (who started on the pole position) and Jack Harvey.

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After the rain jumbled the field as teams scrambled to adapt to changing weather and track conditions, Dixon retook first on Lap 63. He led the next 21 laps before winner Simon Pagenaud charged past to win by 2 seconds.

Pagenaud quickly began chopping down Dixon’s lead as soon as he passed Harvey for second with five laps remaining, but Dixon knew it was over before that.

“They were giving me lap times, and you could see that (Pagenaud) just had some pretty immense pace,” Dixon said. “Once I knew he got some clear track and once he got past Harvey, I think it only took two laps before he was on top of us.

“It falls off really fast here. It’s a momentum track, and it comes far. So I knew pretty early that we were going to be struggling.”

Even though he had roughly 30 seconds of push to pass remaining (while Pagenaud had none), Dixon was limited in being able to use the horsepower on demand boost as a defense mechanism because he was virtually having to stop his No. 9 Dallara-Honda in the first-gear, low-speed corners in order to turn.

“When you’re doing a 40-mph corner and if he’s rolling five mph faster, the time gets chewed up really fast,” Dixon said. “It’s 5 mph when you’re doing 160 on the straights, nowhere near the same amount. I was trying to use (push to pass) sporadically in spots to try and lessen the pain, but you knew it was coming.

“It was one of those scenarios where you’re either hoping for a yellow or it was going to be a timed race and come up short by a couple laps.”

Monday marked Dixon’s third runner-up finish in five starts this season (as well as his third consecutive in the IndyCar GP), and he moved up to second in the standings, six points behind Josef Newgarden, entering the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

But the momentum was hardly much solace for the defending series champion, who is seeking his second win in the Indy 500 (which he won in 2008).

“Days like this are the days you need to try to capitalize and get the win, and we didn’t,” he said. “So it’s nice to have the performance and nice to run fast, but we’re here to win, and with our team, if we don’t win, then it sucks. But we’ll use this as motivation and hopefully performance wise we’re strong the next couple weeks and then can have a good shot into the 500.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.