Scott Dixon’s quest for a seventh IndyCar championship falls short in Laguna Seca

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MONTEREY, California – Team Penske drivers finished first, second and fourth in this year’s NTT IndyCar Series championship. The only driver from another team in the top four was third-place finisher Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing.

That honor means nothing to Dixon.

The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion entered the weekend just 20 points behind championship leader Will Power. Dixon’s attitude was finishing second, third or fourth in the championship doesn’t interest him at all.

“We’ve been a part of a few of these,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “This is what we are in the business for. Two goals – win the Indianapolis 500 and win the IndyCar championship. That is what you aim for all season.

“All I care about is winning the championship. Second, third, fourth – whatever. Winning is what it’s all about.”

Entering the race 20 points out was a number that Dixon said would be “annoying” for a championship leader.

“The way I look at it, if you are the leader, 20 is kind of an annoying number,” Dixon explained. “It’s highly achievable. Thirty or 31 points up would have been a lot different. That makes your window a lot bigger. Twenty is an annoying spot.

“As the leader, you want to make it as least complicated as possible. At St. Pete in 2020, we only needed to finish ninth and we finished third. Both Josef and I charged through the field. He ended up winning the race and I did what I needed to do.

“You just have to go on and what will be, will be.

“The problem for Will is if the strategy flips or there is a mechanical issue, it’s hugely fair game. But with 30 points, it would have made it a different situation.

“Ultimately, we’ll find out in the race.”

Unfortunately for Dixon, he never got a chance to find out. Power started on the pole and earned one point toward the championship. As the race unfolded, Power’s clinching position dropped from third in the race to fifth.

With Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou winning the race by 30.3812 seconds over Josef Newgarden, who also entered the race 20 points behind, Dixon never had a chance to fight for the title. He started the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda in 13thposition and finished the race 12th.

“We were hoping for some different things in cautions, and how that was going to play out,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “Ultimately, our tire deg early on was not good enough. That definitely halted us.

“Later in the race, the car definitely came alive on the last two stints, but it was all too late by that point.”

Dixon finished third in the standings, 39 points away from what would have been a record-tying seventh NTT IndyCar Series championship.

Instead of Dixon, 42, winning the championship, it was Will Power, 41, of Team Penske that won his second IndyCar championship.

“I think his performance this year, he showed a different Will Power,” Dixon said. “That was good for him. I’m really happy he won the championship. He did a hell of a job all year. He is definitely very deserving, but he did it in a fashion that he typically doesn’t.

“Maybe we’ll have to watch out next year, too, to see what he brings.

“Congratulations to him on most poles in IndyCar history (68), but we will be fighting for No. 7 next year, and we’ll be fighting him to get there.”

Both Dixon and Power still have it when it comes to winning races and championships. They set the example for the younger drivers in IndyCar to follow.

Though this was a season where youth was not only served; it was showcased. In the end, the championship was going to be decided between three of the most successful and experienced drivers in the series – Power, Newgarden and Dixon.

“It’s never a question about that, it’s a question of how we can improve the program and each race we get to,” Dixon said. “It’s never about age, mate.

“I’m happy for Will, man.”

Dixon believed the abrasive nature of the track was a perfect fit for his teammate to win the race, which he did by leaving the rest of the field in a different zip code.

“This is like Alex’s ultimate track, this low-grip scenario, when you are in the zone sometimes, that’s just how it goes, man,” Dixon said.

Palou’s future remains highly uncertain. According to team owner Chip Ganassi, he has an option on the driver from Spain in 2023. Palou signed a contract with McLaren for next season.

The dispute is currently in mediation but may end up in court later this year.

Who would Dixon like to see in the No. 10 Honda next season?

“That’s not my decision, man, we’ll see what happen in the offseason,” Dixon said. “Hopefully, they get that worked out. Congratulations to Alex on winning the last race. He did a hell of a job today.

“He had some great speed, and it was great to see that side of the team get a win.”

With 41 points separating the top five, this was the closest points race between positions 1-5 since 2003 when it was a 30-point spread. The driver that won that championship was a young mate from Auckland, New Zealand, named Scott Dixon.

Nineteen years later, here was Dixon fighting it out for another championship.

Of Dixon’s six NTT IndyCar Series championships, the tightest was 2015 when Juan Pablo Montoya had a commanding lead and Dixon had to essentially run the table to win the title.

On a Lap 41 restart in the season’s final race at Sonoma Raceway, Power and then Team Penske drive Montoya collided into each other, sending Montoya to the pits for repairs.

When the race concluded, both Dixon and Montoya were tied in points, but Dixon won the championship in 2015 based on more victories that season.

“Even then, it got close because Montoya fought back,” Dixon recalled. “That one was even more wild because of the circumstances and the tiebreaker.

“Hey, I would have welcomed that again. That would be fantastic to win by one point. That’s the name of the game.”

Dixon has won championships by wide margins and tiebreakers. Doesn’t matter, a championship is a championship and the rest counts as a disappointment.

“They are all satisfying because they are all achieved so differently,” Dixon said. “You come from big deficits to leading all season to whatever it may be. They are like kids. You love them all the same but maybe you treat them differently.

“The first championship is big, for sure.”

Dixon’s leads a great life with his effervescent wife, Emma, two daughters, Poppy and Tilly, and a bundle of energy 2-year-old son named Kip.

Which title is Kip?

“He’s the crazy one, so probably 2015,” Dixon said.

Once again, Dixon came close to another championship but wasn’t able to seal the seventh title that would tie him with the great A.J. Foyt for most IndyCar championships.

“Of course, you think about it, but it’s not seven until you have seven, and we don’t have seven,” Dixon said. “To talk about it is just hypotheticals.”

After Sunday’s race, seven remains a hypothetical number to Dixon.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2