Scott Dixon has ‘to race for wins’ starting at Toronto

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owen
INDYCAR Photo by John Cote
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TORONTO – Scott Dixon’s mission is clear in regard to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

Although the five-time IndyCar Series champion is fourth in points, Dixon is 106 points behind championship points leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. With just seven races remaining in the season, Dixon is taking a “Win or else” attitude when it comes to the battle for the championship.

“I think the effect for us is we have to race for wins now,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There is no other way to try and rebound on this championship, especially when the likes of Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi have been running so well at every configuration, too.

“We definitely have to step it up.”

Dixon heads into this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto as the defending winner after he started second and led 49 laps in the 85-lap street race in 2018. It was this third win in Toronto in 14 IndyCar Series starts, including two seasons in CART in 2001 and 2002.

Watch the Honda Indy Toronto on NBCSN July 14 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Dixon is arriving at Toronto at full speed after his brilliant display of racing at Road America on June 23. He was involved in a first-lap incident that saw him spin off course. When he returned to the track, he was 10 seconds behind the entire field.

In a contest that ran green flag for the entire distance, Dixon was able to race his way to a fifth-place finish.

Imagine what Dixon could have done without the first-lap spin-out.

“Could have, should have, would have, right?” Dixon said. “Visually, it could have been an easy podium. Honestly, it’s hard to get into a full-on battle at the front.

“It was a good day for us considering what happened. But it doesn’t mean much to talk about what could have been a possibility. It was frustrating for what happened. For us generally it was a decent points day.”

Toronto is one of Dixon’s best street courses. The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion has a great knack for that track.

“I think our track record has been pretty good there,” Dixon admitted. “The series has moved on a lot from last season. The competition is definitely tighter and more difficult. We need to get more speed in the car, nicer to drive.

“We had good cars at Road America, but it was hard to piece a good lap together for me. Felix (Rosenqvist, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) was able to do it a little bit more often in some of the sessions. The split times were decent, but I really couldn’t get it together in qualifying.

“There’s a lot of things in the works that hopefully help us. But really, as usual, it’s the results that really talk. We’ll leave it to that.”

It’s the results that are going to get Dixon back into contention for a potential sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship. The 45-time IndyCar Series race winner knows that racing for points, won’t get him back to the front.

From this point forward, he has to “win or else.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.