INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owen
INDYCAR Photo by John Cote

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

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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.”

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”