Dixon, Newgarden Pursue “Strange” Championship

Points leader Scott Dixon and his closest challenger Josef Newgarden agree that whoever wins the title will consider the 2020 championship to be a strange one.

Scott Dixon

“I think it would probably be the strangest just I think how the season’s gone, the schedule change,the ups and downs,” Dixon shared on a zoom conference with Indycar media this afternoon.

Josef Newgarden

“Yeah, I would agree with Scott. It would be the strangest. I don’t know how you’re going to forget this year,” Newgarden said.

In preparing for the Harvest Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, Dixon is approaching the doubleheader as they would any other race weekend and not focusing on clinching the title.

“I think, I don’t know, for us, we just have to treat it like any other race weekend and try to get maximum points. The obvious goal is to go out there and try to win, but unfortunately there’s 23, 24 others that have the same goal. Try to do better than we did at the last doubleheader at Mid-Ohio where I definitely made a very large mistake, that gave away some pretty easy points there.”

Newgarden trails Dixon by 72 points with three races left. he looks at the weekend the same way Dixon does- score more points and the rest will fall into place.

“I think I feel similar to how we felt all year. We sort of just approach it where we try and do the best job possible every weekend, control what we can control, try and score the most points, just like Scott.”

Both drivers are excited that fans will be allowed to attend. 10,00 fans per day are allowed into the track for the weekend.

Dixon said,

“I think it’s going to be fantastic to have up to 10,000 fans on each day. It’s definitely been a different dynamic I think for a lot of us this season,especially the Indianapolis 500 that ran without fans. We welcome the fans greatly. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can have a fantastic weekend.”

Newgarden agreed,

“Excited to see fans back at a weekend. Everybody has been eager to get to a racetrack, at Indianapolis. Fun to see people around, socially distanced. Hopefully the weather is good. I haven’t even looked. Hopefully we have a good forecast for everybody that’s going to come out.”

Pracftice for the Harvest Grand Prix begins Thursday, with race 1 qualifying later that day. Race 1 is Friday at 3:30 pm Eastern on USA network. Race 2 is Saturday at 2:30 pm eastern on NBC.

The Last 50 Race Winner?

Photo: Scott Dixon after winning his 50th career race at World Wide Technology Raceway on Saturday. Chris Owens, Indycar

On Saturday Scott Dixon became just the third driver in Indycar history to win 50 races. The two in front of him, A. J. Foyt with 67 wins, and Mario Andretti with 52, have stood as the only to achieve the 50 race race mark since 1988, when Andretti won his 50th race at Phoenix. Foyt’s 50th came in 1975 at Trenton.

A. J. Foyt

There are similarities between the three drivers. Foyt and Dixon both hit the win mark at age 40. Andretti was 44, but spent 1975-1981 full time in Formula 1, although he still drove in the Indianapolis 500. An argument could be made that had Andretti drove Indycar full time during those years, he would have won 50 races much earlier. Could he have have surpassed Foyt for first place all time? That’s a great topic for bench racing.

Mario Andretti

I’m not sure how to decide which of the three drivers’ feat is the most remarkable. Foyt raced in an era where careers were usually shortened by injuries or death. Andretti also raced during the same era as Foyt. Dixon has raced most of his career in spec cars where the equipment is essentially equal in theory.

Will we see another driver win as many as 50 races? Only one other driver, Michael Andretti has won more than 40 times. I think the odds are quite long. The next active driver on the win list is Will Power with 37 wins, tied for sixth on the career list with Sebastien Bourdais. Power has a chance to reach the 40 win mark, but his remaining  time in Indycar looks limited.  Ryan Hunter-Reay has 18 wins, 26th all time.  Simon Pagenaud now has won 15 times, which ties him for 31st with Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Only 45 drivers since 1909 have won 10 or more times.

If another driver ends up with 50 or more career win, he would be one of the newer drivers in the series. Any driver with potential has a lot to battle in his quest for the magic number. He needs to be on a top team for many years, like Dixon has been. There are  concerns of sponsors, injuries, mechanical failures, and accidents.

An Indycar career can last a long time. The aeroscreen may have added some years to a driver’s time on the track. The competitiveness of the series makes it more difficult to win a race. While this year may be a bit of an aberration, we have had there have been five different winners in nine races. Indycar has been averaging about seven different winners a season the past few years.

If I had to guess which drivers  may someday reach 50 victories, Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward would be the first two which come to mind. Herta won twice last year. O’Ward has yet to win a race, but I have a feeling that once he gets his first checkered flag, he will begin winning with regularity.

I have been fortunate to see each of the three 50 race winners drive and win races. Today’s fans need to appreciate Scott Dixon as he competes in his last few years  in Indycar. I admired the skills of Foyt and Andretti when they raced. Seeing them has helped me understand that Dixon is their equal.

Indycar Oval Season- Veterans Rule, Passing at a Premium

The NTT Indycar Series completed the oval portion of their abbreviated schedule Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway. It was quite a feat to get in six races of any kind in a season that was delayed until June. Some positive things came from the abbreviated, revised schedule. The double header qualifying format, the competitiveness of Carlin Racing with Conor Daly driving, and that fans were allowed to attend Iowa and Gateway. Sunday’s attendance at gateway is thought to be around 7,500, which would make it the largest oval crowd of the year.

Qualifying Format for Double Headers

The double header qualifying format in which the first lap set the Race 1 grid and the second lap set the Race 2 grid was fascinating and did scramble the lineup a bit for the second race. I was surprised no one swept both poles at an event. Four different drivers won poles at the doubleheaders- Conor Daly, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Takuma Sato.

If there are more double headers next season, I hope this format stays. This year it was put in to save time and expense on an improvised program, but it was fun to watch.

Oval Points

It seemed as if Scott Dixon dominated the ovals, but Newgarden was not far behind. Dixon’s 95 point margin is largely based on the road course races. Dixon accumulated 256 points on the ovals while Newgarden has 251. Takuma Sato and Pato O’Ward each have 205 points on the ovals. Sato’s win at the Indianapolis 500 made up for his missing the race at Texas.

Passing

The aeroscreen may be a factor. Less tire degradation might also be a culprit. It seems as if passing is more difficult this year than last year. This past weekend passing was non existent except for a few bold moves, especially Sunday.

The aero package works  very well on road courses. Adjustments need to be made for the oval package. I hope that after a season with the new aeroscreen, the series and teams can figure something out.

Yellows

 The seventeen caution periods this season on ovals is I think, about average. Seven were in the Indianapolis 500. While the timing of the yellows can’t be predicted, several drivers have been caught out by the yellow flags just after their pit stops.

 Conor Daly had just pitted in Iowa race 2 when the yellow flew for Ryan Hunter-Reay’s accident. The rain yellow at Gateway this past Saturday pushed Josef Newgarden back in the field.

Two races have ended under yellow because of accidents with four laps to go. I don’t have a problem with races finishing under yellow. A race has a scheduled distance and that’s when it should end. Baseball doesn’t add an inning when a game ends on a strikeout instead of a home run.

Carlin and Daly

Carlin Racing and Conor Daly have been a great match. Daly has made Carlin competitive on the ovals. His average finish with Carlin is 8.8 with four top tens and a pole. The one top ten he didn’t get was because he was caught by a yellow in Iowa Race 2.

I hope Daly continues his arrangement with Carlin next season.

Rookies

The rookies have looked great on the road courses, but have struggled some on the ovals. Rinus VeeKay, who had a disastrous start at Texas,  does appear to be improving. He had a 6th and a 4th this past weekend. Oliver Askew Had a 3rd and a 6th at Iowa, but hasn’t shown consistency at the other ovals. Alex Palou has a best oval finish of 11th.

VeeKay leads the rookie standings overal with 181 points, while Askew has the most oval points, 126.

I’m sad to see the oval portion end. there are five road or street courses left on the schedule. We are still waiting for final word about Mid Ohio and whether fans will be allowed. There is no word yet about fans viewing the Harvest classic races at IMS. St. Pete I still think is iffy to run and definitely sketchy for fans.

History Made – Quick Thoughts on Race 1

Photo: James Black, Indycar

We were going to see history today. We just didn’t know what it would be. Was it going to be O’Ward’s first victory, Dixon’s 50th, or a repeat winner at this track?

50 Indycar wins for Scott Dixon. Nothing else to say. The way his season is going, he could catch and pass Mario Andretti this season for second place on the all time win list.

Asking for a friend- Is someone really old if they have seen all three Indycar drivers who have won 50 or more races drive and win?

Pato O’Ward will sometime soon get the last stint right and stand atop the podium. Maybe tomorrow.

What Indy 500 hangover? Takuma Sato finished a strong second today, starts on pole tomorrow, and moved up to fourth in points. This ranks as one the best next races after winning the 500 I remember.

Andretti Autosport has a lot of work to do tonight. Losing three cars before they even reach the starting line typifies the type of season the team is having.

I still need to see the replay of the start, but from what I have seen it looks like Power brought the field to the line too slow and drivers in the back got anxious. I’m not sure what Alex Palou was thinking being that far out of line.

Starts and restarts have been a problem this year. Road America race 2 also had a slow start. Colton Herta had the restart problem at Iowa.

Conor Daly earned another top ten finish for Carlin Racing. Daly has really helped that team. Sad that tomorrow is his final race with them this season.

Runus VeeKay’s sixth place finish is his best oval result this year. After a rough start at Texas, VeeKay has worked hard to improve on ovals.

Tony Kanaan’ s ninth place is a nice finish as he closes his season Sunday.

Herta had a quiet fourth place finish.

The points race is all but over. Dixon holds a 117 point lead over Newgarden, and O’Ward is another 13 behind. It has been a while since the pints leader has had such control of the championship. It’s been a long time since someone had won half of the races this deep into the year.

Pole Day-Will Marco Stay on Top?

Photo: Indycar, Walt Kuhn

Today’s schedule:

11-11:30 am – Fast 9 Practice NBC Gold

1:15-2:15 pm – Fast 9 Shootout NBC (1-3 pm coverage)

3:30-6 pm – Practice (NBCSN at 4 pm)

Good morning from the IMS northwest media center annex. This is an interesting and talented Fast Nine, and definitely one of the most unusual ones since the beginning of the pole shootout.  The field has four former race winners, two rookies, two former pole winners, and drivers from five different teams. Andretti Autosport has four drivers who advanced to today and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has two.

The odds of having a first time polesitter are good. Marco Andretti showed yesterday that he is fast regardless of the time of day and the track conditions. While Scott Dixon’s late run yesterday was simply a show of strength, he won’t be running with the shadows on the track.

Rinus VeeKay is a rookie driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. VeeKay loves to go fast. The ECR team  has been a perennial member of the Fast Nine.  I look for the only Chevy in the Fast Nine to be on the front row.

As for predictions, I hate to jinx someone, but this is Marco’s pole to lose.

Notes:

What’s missing from today’s shootout? Penske cars. Josef Newgarden was the fastes on the team in 13th. Will Power  is 22nd, Simon Pagenaud is 25th and Helio Castroneves is 28th.  Pagenaud has been a poor qualifier all season, but has come from the back to contend for the win.  I am puzzled by Chevrolet’s overall lack of speed.

Scott Dixon will increase his points lead today by at least 1 point and as many as 9. he currently leads Pagenaud by49 points and Newgarden by 51.

I think the fastest driver on Saturday should receive at least a point.

James Hinchcliffe’s mask is creepy.

I saw a lot of anger on social media toward Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon for their late day runs. While I wished they hadn’t done it and given drivers who needed a shot a chance, these late day qualifying games have been played for the last 70 years. Watch film of Bump Days in the past and see what went on in the last 90 minutes or so. You’ll see pretty much what you saw yesterday.  They were playing by the rules they were given.

Day 2- Thoughts

Photo- Indycar, Chris Jones

Fernando Alonso’s crash was one I hope we don’t see on race day. there will be  people and equipment where he came to rest, and the results would have been worse. He is fortunate that the car missed the attenuator at the pit entrance. We have seen several scary wrecks when it is hit.

Anyone else get a sense of deja vu when Pagenaud pulled out of line to pass Rossi?

Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed finally passed phase 1 of the refresher and will be allowed to practice tomorrow. If there were more than 33 entries, this team would be in trouble. I wonder if the electrical issues Dragonspeed is experiencing are because the car was put together in a hurry.

Scott Dixon is looking better and better. the team tried a full length Gurney flap ,in the middle of the afternoon. Dixon shot to the top of the chart in the final 16 minutes of the session after going back to the shorter flap. he could be in the Fast Nine and be a race day contender.

The Penske cars seem to be the most comfortable in traffic. Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves look as if they can pass anyone at any time. I’m not concerned about where this team is on the speed charts. they will be up front Saturday.

Tomorrow we will find out if Alexander Rossi is really slow or if the team has been working on things.

Don Edmunds

1957 Indianapolis Rookie of the Year Don Edmunds died today at age 89. Edmunds ran in only one 500, but after he retired he became a master car builder of midgets.  Edmunds redesigned the midget into a sleeker machine than it had been. Parnelli Jones and the Caruthers brothers drove for Edmunds.

His death leaves just two drivers from the 50s still living, A. J. Foyt and Paul Goldsmith. Foyt is 85 and Goldsmith is 94.

Today’s speed chart:

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Quick Thoughts- GMR Grand Prix Race 1

We could see history tomorrow. Scott Dixon could win his 50th race. Only two other drivers have reached and surpassed that number.

The second half of the race was quite interesting. Newgarden’ s stall in the pits began to turn the race around. The yellows really made for an exciting finish.

What is going on with Team Penske pit stops? They have had problems e every race this year.  They aren’t the only team with pit issues, but the bar is much higher for them. I wonder if the compressed event schedules are contributing to the pit errors.

Drive of the day goes to Alex Palou. The rookie’s podium finish came after starting 14th, having a long pit stop, and making a nice pass on Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta are not being mentioned much, but they are quietly having very good seasons. Herta is third in points and Hunter-Reay is sixth.

Today pretty much ends Alexander Rossi’s title hopes. It was his second straight finish in the twenties.

Conor Daly’s crew has a long night ahead of them repairing his car for tomorrow. Daly may skip qualifying and start last. His accident is the bad part of double headers. My concern is a car getting badly damaged next Friday in the first Iowa race. Would that team be done for the weekend?

After no cautions for two years, today’s race tried to make up for all that lost time. The three cautions came within seven laps of each other.

Turn five saw lots of passing and attempted passing, lots of tire smoke from locked brakes, and several near collisions.

I hoe tomorrow’s race, on NBC, is just as entertaining as today’s race was.

I will have just post tomorrow, in the morning. I will be driving back to Indianapolis as soon as tomorrow’s race is over. Thanks for following along this weekend.

Traditions Smashed: Quick Thoughts on the GMR Grand Prix

Photo: Indycar, James Black

Two traditions of this race went down n flames today- A clean first lap for the first time in race history, and the biggest tradition-the two winners club was intruded upon by Scott Dixon. It was only the second time a Team Penske car did not win.

Five drivers with less than three years of Indycar experience finished in the top 10.Colton Herta finished fourth, Rinus VeeKay came home fifth, Marcus Ericsson was sixth, Pato O’W  and Santino Ferrucci ended up in eighth and ninth. VeeKay started 18th. His 13 spot improvement was second to Simon Pagenaud who moved up 17 positions from 20th to third.

Scott Dixon should have at least 50 career  victories by season’s end. He is now just four behind Mario Andretti for second place.

What is going on with Will Power and pit stops? There have been issues in both races this year.

The yellow for Oliver Askew’s crash hurt Graham Rahal. His two stop strategy was working perfectly until then. It was nice to see Rahal fighting for the win again.

It was a great day for Ed Carpenter Racing. In addition to VeeKay’s fifth place, Conor Daly finished 12th. Daly had been in the top 10 for much of the race. I hope to see more of this kind  of result from the team the rest of the year.

Andretti Autosport  struggled overall for the second straight race. Except for Herta, the rest of the team was not a factor. In Texas Veach was the lone bright spot. They need to turn things around at Road America next week.

Think it’s boring watching Dixon win the first two races? We are watching one of the best ever. As someone who has been lucky enough to watch Foyt, Andretti, Jones, Mears,  and the Unsers, I am telling you Dixon belongs with this group. appreciate him that you can watch someone with his skill.

A few people gathered outside the fence of IMS around 23rd and Georgetown Road to watch the race on the video board and soak in the sounds of the race. It was weird just getting tiny glimpses of the cars, but it was better than sitting at home.

I will be back with a more detailed wrap up later tonight or tomorrow.

Enjoy your holiday. wash your hands and mask up. Thanks for following along this weekend.

 

Dixon Fastest in Warm Up: Andretti Cars Struggle

Scott Dixon turned the quickest lap in this morning’s warmup for the GMR Grand Prix. Dixon’s best lap of 1:11.0771 came near the end of the 30 minute session. It was an adventure filled period for several cars. the escape roads in turns 1 and 12 saw a lot of traffic.

Five minutes into the session, Marco Andretti stalled. The issue was a CV joint which also gave the team problems yesterday. Alexander Rossi missed the first 10 minutes of the practice with fuel pressure issues. He finished seventh but complained of the rear of the car being loose.

With about two minutes to go Charlie Kimball slid in turn 10, briefly got into the grass, then got the car straightened out and continued. the track stayed green. Colton Herta had several issues with brakes locking up.

The top five:

Scott Dixon    1:11.0771

Josef Newgarden  1:11.2178

Ryan Hunter-Reay  1:11.2380

Graham Rahal  1:11.4352

Felix Rosenqvist  1:11.4380

Turn 12 could be a trouble spot in the race. The temperature should be at least 10 degrees warmer at race time. Back after the race.