The NTT IndyCar Series has calculated there are nearly 20,000 scenarios that will result in Scott Dixon winning his sixth IndyCar championship Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Dixon can secure the title with a ninth place or better regardless of the finish for Josef Newgarden, his only contender. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver could finish anywhere from first to 24th and still be one title from matching the legendary A.J. Foyt’s record.
Dixon, though, is interested only in one outcome at St. Pete: winning. Which makes his approach easy to summarize for the typically concise Kiwi.
CLINCH SCENARIOS: Breaking down Scott Dixon vs. Josef Newgarden
ENTRY LIST: Here are the 24 drivers racing at St. Pete
“Flat out, man,” Dixon told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey (video of the interview above) about how he’ll manage a 32-point lead over Newgarden. “That’s the only way you can race. You’ve got to keep it simple. You don’t want to complicate things or make things cloudy. You don’t want to be like, ‘Well, we only need to be ninth. Doesn’t matter where we qualify.’
“You don’t want to be putting yourself in that situation because then you become more vulnerable. So yes, we’re in a great situation. But it doesn’t guarantee you anything.”
— Arni Sribhen (@neckthai) October 19, 2020
The past several races have been a reminder of that for Dixon, whose lead had ballooned to 117 points after his Aug. 29 victory at World Wide Technology Raceway. In the five races since then, he has lost 85 points amidst some blunders by both driver (clipping a curb and spinning at Mid-Ohio dropped him out of a top five) and team (which struggled with cooler temperatures at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course).
“For us, it’s about doing the obvious things right,” he said. “I think we got ourselves into a bit of a tailspin the last few events and tried to get a bit too smart for ourselves and maybe skip over the original situation we should be in and just doing the obvious things right, and we didn’t do that.
“And I made a mistake (at) Mid-Ohio, if I hadn’t spun, the championship would be spoken for, so we will go (to St. Pete) there to win. We know Penske has a great track record there, and there’s a lot more Josef has to do, but as we’ve seen, the guy on the last row of the grid can win that race if you get a flip in the strategy. It can break loose pretty quickly. Simply, we’re going there to win, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Dixon has yet to win at St. Pete but has four runner-up finishes on the 1.8-mile street circuit, including a second to Newgarden in the most recent race on March 10, 2019.
Getting a breakthrough victory likely will require a strong qualifying position, which has surprisingly been the Achilles’ heel of the No. 9 Dallara-Honda. After leading the series last season with an average starting position of 5.0, Dixon has dropped four spots this year and has qualified 12th or worse in three of the past four races.
“It’s been definitely tricky for us as a team,” he said.
Dixon at least had the chance to reverse the momentum of four consecutive IndyCar finishes between eighth and 10th. As the third driver for Wayne Taylor Racing this past weekend, he was part of the winning DPi entry in the prestigious Petit Le Mans.
“It’s so different, but if you can be racing and driving, that’s what (drivers) love to do,” he said. “It was nice to not have to sit there a weekend and have to think about the (championship) possibilities. It was really fun to be engaging and somewhat out of my comfort zone.
“I’ve only been in that car once previously, which was Daytona (where the team won the Rolex 24 in January), and that set a great precedence for how we rolled into the IndyCar season and getting three (victories) in a row. I hope that applies as well. We can win last weekend, St. Pete and then St. Pete in March of next year and keep that ball rolling.”
Click here or above to watch Dixon’s interview with Diffey.