Dixon maintains excellent start despite another tough P2 at Barber
Such is the brilliance of Scott Dixon that his start to his 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season - finishes of third, fourth and second - can be viewed as disappointing because potential wins have gone begging.
The latest chapter of his almost-winning-but-not-quite saga to open this year’s campaign occurred at the track where he has his best results without a win, Barber Motorsports Park.
Dixon was top Honda on the day in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but alas, one spot short of a victory as he scored his seventh Barber podium in eight races - all of them either seconds or thirds.
On this occasion, Dixon did his usual masterstroke of fuel saving by running longest in the first stint, running to Lap 24 and leading two laps.
Dixon also got ahead of Josef Newgarden on the final pit stop sequence despite running behind him and Will Power on the road during the middle stint.
But after a restart from the second and last full-course caution on Lap 68, Newgarden muscled his way past Dixon at Turns 15 and 16 for third place on the inside, leaving Dixon very little room on corner exit in a forceful but not dirty passing move.
While that was for third at the time, it wound up being the pass for the win because Dixon’s teammate, then-leader Charlie Kimball, pitted from an off-sequence strategy and the would-be winner, Power, pitted with a left rear puncture.
It left Dixon high and dry but in his usual so good, yet so close, P2, with three laps led. He felt worse for Power and gave Newgarden plaudits for the move.
“I saw him late coming into Turn 15 or 16. I tried to hold him back, but I wasn’t able to hold him back. It’s deserved for him,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Marty Snider post-race.
“The NTT Data car was strong. I feel bad for Will Power. It was a false flat tire perhaps? So yeah, that and a good job to Josef.”
Dixon elaborated a bit more on the day in the post-race press conference.
“I typically hold a fairly tight line there. But, yeah, he dove it in there, with some speed. He couldn’t make the corner at the appropriate time, so we kind of both ran wide there. But, you know, it was a great move.
“Josef did a hell of a job there on the blacks. Obviously had a clean start and really had some good longevity on that stint and was able to pit short and jump on reds.
“I think, you know, I feel bad for Will obviously with the flat tire issue there, but then also left the door open a little bit in 16. Josef put his nose in there. Tried to turn down, but through that whole complex, 14, 15, 16, I was just so loose. If I turned more, would have spun out.
“Credit to Josef. Drove a hell of a race. Team Penske, congratulations to them. Seventh podium here at Alabama without a win. Good in a lot of ways, but unfortunately we come here to win and we came up short.”
Despite not winning, Dixon still sits second in the points, just six points behind Sebastien Bourdais, who finished eighth.
Dixon and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series head to the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix next weekend (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), where he has a win to defend.