Dixon Leads Practice One; Turn 11 Proves Tricky

Scott Dixon led the first practice session for the Honda Indy Toronto this morning. His lap of 1:01.072 was nearly two tenths better than Josef Newgarden’s best time. Dixon’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist was third quickest. and Alexander Rossi was fourth. This is the NTT Indycar Series’ first race since Road America June 23.

Newgarden, Will Power, and Takuma Sato each spun on the exit of turn 11 causing stoppages to the session.  Newgarden bent the rear tow link in his incident. Ther is an expoxy patch in the center of the road just past the turn’s apex. if the car straddles the patch, no problem. If the tires touch it, there could be an issue.

Rossi led the session until the last five minutes when Dixon passed him. Rossi’s final attempt at a decent lap was frustrated by his being behind another car, then not not having enough tires left for a quicker lap.

Notes

It’s difficult to get used to Sebastien  Bourdais in a blue car.

Karam’s car reminds me of Paul Dana’s car.

Turn three seems even trickier than it has been.

The next practice begins at 3:15 eastern. You can watch on NBC Gold. The coverage this morning was excellent.

The top 12:

Screenshot_20190712-121925

 

Race 2- Quick Thoughts

Scott Dixon knows how to correct mistakes.  After his crash yesterday left him in 22nd place, he comes back with a win. His first of the year and 45th career win. He is now fourth in points. Dixon got his first win at Detroit last year as well.  Could this be the start of his run for back to back titles ?

Alexander Rossi was the big gainer in points today. He moves to second place just 15 behind Josef Newgarden.

Nice to see all four Andretti cars in the top 10.

Great to finally see a podium for Arrow Schmidt Peterson.  Good job by Marcus Ericsson.

Ed Carpenter Racing drivers Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones can’t seem to put a complete race together consistently.

Like yesterday, half the elapsed time was under yellow consuming 33% of the laps.

I’m not sure these late red flags are any better than a green white checker.

Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal are the only drivers who had top ten finishes both days.

What a great comeback by Will Power after his early problem.

I hate when television switches to laps to go. They seemed to start with 48 laps left today, Way too early for that.  I can tolerate it with about 10 laps left.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. I will have some photos up later tomorrow. If you like damaged cars, you’ll enjoy them.

 

Dixon Leads Practice 1

Scott Dixon had the fastest lap in the opening practice session for the Detroit Grand Prix. His best lap was 1:16.7418, a speed of 110.240 mph.  Four Hondas and two Chevrolets occupied the top six spots. Will Power was second, 0,3464 seconds behind Dixon.

The rest of the top six – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, and Colton Herta.  Spencer Pigot was the only other Chevy driver in the top 10, in ninth place. Alexander Rossi, one of this weekend’s favorites, was eighth quickest.

The session was green until Sebastien Bourdais found the runoff area in turn seven with about eight minutes left. He tried to spin the car around and continue, but the car stalled.  The session resumed with about five minutes left.  Felix Rosenqvist spun into a runoff area, but the session continued.

The next practice is at 2:50 and the results will determine tomorrow’s qualifying groups. Pit stop practice follows the practice session.

More later.

The Early, Early Line

Happy New Year and welcome to another year of The Pit Window. Thanks to everyone for making 2018 a record year for this site.  Here are are some early predictions for the 2019 Indycar season. I may revise these after the Spring Training sessions at COTA next month.

2019 Champion– Alexander Rossi. Rossi made some mistakes that cost him the title last season. He seems to learn quickly and I don’t expect those errors to be repeated. Dixon has never won consecutive titles, which is why I am not picking him. Look for strong competition from Will Power and Josef Newgarden, as usual. Ryan Hunter-Reay rediscovered his groove and may gave his teammate a challenge as well.

Rookie of the Year- I’m  giving a slight edge to Felix Rosenqvist, mainly because of the team he drives for. Patricio O’Ward will present a strong challenge, especially with Harding Steinbrenner Racing receiving some technical support from Andretti, but Rosenqvist will provide strong support to Dixon in his title quest.

Indianapolis 500– Will Power. If any driver is gong to be the next back to back winner of the 500, Power is the one. He has become a master of ovals. Look for his dominance of May to continue. I can imagine the Victory Circle celebration if he returns there. Last year’s will seem tame.

Race Wins-  In 2018, four drivers each won three races. I think we will see a similar situation this season, although I look for Rossi to win a fourth race to give him the edge he needs for the title. Dixon will creep ever closer to the 50 win mark, but will need another year to get there and possibly two to pass Mario Andretti’s 52 victories.

A Brief Survey

I would like to hear from you. What stories did you enjoy the most last year? Which type of column did you not like?  Anything you would like to see more of, or less of? Please let me know.

The Roar

I will be heading to Daytona Saturday for The Roar Before the 24. Look for my coverage on Wildfire Sports. I may have some news regarding Wildfire soon.

The Pit Window Plays Santa

The big day approaches rapidly, and The Pit Window has gifts for Indycar. Before I pass them out, I want to thank everyone who has read the column this year. There has been a 300% increase in readership in 2018. I am humbled and appreciative. I hope everyone has a great holiday season no matter what or how you celebrate. On to the gifts.

For Indycar- An improved aero package for ovals. The street and road package is great. I hope you can find the answer to improve the oval racing. It seemed to improve as the year went on.

For IMS-

A tweak to the Indy 500 qualifying format to accomodate the larger entry list.

An IMSA race for 2020.

For A. J. Foyt Racing- Some top five finishes in 2019.

For Juncos Racing- A car on the grid for several races, including the 500.

For Zach Veach- Your first Indycar victory.

For Scott Dixon- Your first back to back championship.

For Will Power- Another Indy 500 win. The celebration was worth it.

For Robert Wickens- Continued progress toward full recovery. Watching you battle has been inspiring. You were a joy to watch on track, and you have shown that same spirit in therapy..

For McLaren- A successful Indy debut that leads to fuller participation in the series.

For NBC- Great coverage of all races and an outstanding Indy 500 broadcast.

For All Teams and Drivers- A safe, competitive 2019 season.

I will return mid week next week with a news roundup and a look at what you’ll see here in 2019.

Happy Holidays to all.

Born Racer: The Driver Is Not the Only Hero

Born Racer is a movie about heroes. Of course there is the driver, Scott Dixon, who knows the risks in his profession. But there is also his family, wife Emma and daughters Poppy and Tilly, who show outward strength while inside they are a bundle of nerves. The crew needs to get the car in perfect running condition and manage the race to achieve the best result possible. Sometimes things happen beyond their control, as in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Race Day 2017 begins at 5 am in two places. The garages at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway open and Ken Szymanski, the tire man for Scott Dixon’s car, begins checking tire pressures as he ponders what the next twelve hours will bring. In the Dixon motor home, Emma Davies-Dixon prepares breakfast for Scott, who is already focused on the day ahead. He sits quietly watching prerace coverage on a local television station. She sits with him, but doesn’t speak.

Activity at the track continues at an ever quickening pace as race time approaches. After the Ganassi team meets, Dixon and his family walk hand in hand to the grid. As Scott dons his helmet, Emma shares her thoughts about drivers who didn’t come back and the families they left behind.

” I don’t want it to be my turn,” she thinks as the race is about to start. She can only wait anxiously for three hours to know.

Shortly after the first pit stop, Dixon collided with Jay Howard in a horrific crash which sent his car flying into the inside catch fence and wall, destroying his car. Anxious moments are reflected on Emma’s face and the faces of the crew. Dixon gets out of the car on his own. there are more tense moments as Emma waits for him to come out of the infield hospital. somehow, Dixon has a broken ankle, but no other injuries.

One of the most riveting moments of the film is a look at the team on Dixon’s pit stand staring in stunned silence in the seconds just after the accident. The camera captures the dread and concern they feel watching the replay on the video board.

Later we see Dixon return to the motor home at the track being happily met by his daughters and Emma. She talks about how the car saved Scott’s life with relief and still some terror in her voice.

The season and the championship pursuit moves on. Kate Gundlach, a new assistant engineer with the team, talks about seeking perfection in her job to give Dixon the best car possible. Gundlach grew up in a racing family. She is passionate about the sport and her role. Winning the pole and having a chance to win the 500 was exciting, but the chance to win a championship really motivates her.

With just a single win at Road America and some frustrations at other races, there is still an outside shot at the title in the final race at Sonoma. The Penske team has a big advantage with their aero package and Josef Nnewgarden cruises to the title.

Emma and Scott stand together in pit lane. She tells him, “I’m really excited about next year.” As it turns out, that was a prescient statement.

The movie is a tribute to the best current driver in Indycar, who has already established his place among the all time greats of the sport.It also honors his family and team. We get an intimate behind the scenes look at his family and the crew. We see their single focus on one goal, the support they provide each other, and their resiliency when difficulties arise.

Some of my favorite scenes:

Dixon relaxing at home in the pool with his daughters on a rare day off.

Kate Gundlach preparing the steering wheeling with total focus, care, and love,

Emma’s tension while waiting to hear that Scott is okay after the wreck.

Ken Szymanski comparing Scott to Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna, whom he also worked with. He says that three have that something extra which motivates him to work harder.

The home movies of Dixon’s karting days when he was a kid.

Ron Dixon, Scott’s father, talking of all the money he put into Scott’s racing. He worked extra hours and took out loans just to keep Scott’s career going. “It was all worth it,” he says.

Born Racer is available through Amazon. It can also be downloaded for viewing from iTunes.