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.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.