The podium finish for four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon at Road America added to his points lead through 10 rounds in 2018, setting him on a familiar path with seven races remaining this season.
Despite eventually making his mark in the Indy car record book thanks to his landmark 43rd career victory at Texas Motor Speedway that placed him third on the all-time win list, Dixon’s season started out characteristically slow.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver didn’t reach the podium until the fifth round on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A podium finish in the Indianapolis 500 granted him valuable double points, but it was his first laps led and subsequent win in Race 1 on Detroit’s Belle Isle that propelled him to second in the standings.
Dixon’s hot streak continued in the second Detroit race where a fourth-place finish netted him 32 markers and kept him ranked second. The following weekend at Texas Motor Speedway saw the New Zealander move into the championship lead. A rough 248 laps under the Texas lights for fellow championship contenders Will Power and Josef Newgarden dropped them to third and fifth in points, respectively.
Newgarden’s dominant performance at Road America moved him up to fourth but he remains 50 points behind Dixon. Power, meanwhile, plummeted to fifth by finishing last in Wisconsin. While the Team Penske drivers remain in the top five, Dixon’s most prominent competitors hail from the Honda-powered Andretti Autosport with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi tied at 348 points to Dixon’s 393.
Coming on strong around the midpoint of a season isn’t new for Dixon, who’s navigating his 18th year of Indy car racing. In 2003, his first championship-winning season, Dixon won the opener at Homestead Miami-Speedway before finishing 20th, 15th, seventh and sixth in the next four rounds. Wins at Pikes Peak International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway put him solidly back in the title fight and over the final nine races of the season, he was on the podium five times en route to earning 507 points, outscoring Gil de Ferran by 18.
Dixon’s second championship run in 2008 had more consistency with six victories, two runner-up finishes and four third-place finishes. He failed to reach the top 10 just three times at St. Petersburg, Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway. With a second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway to close out the season, Dixon took the title by 17 points over Helio Castroneves.
The 2013 season didn’t get going for Dixon until the 11th round which kicked off a string of three consecutive victories at Pocono Raceway and the Toronto doubleheader. In the first nine races of that year, his best finish was fourth at both races in Detroit. Added to the legend of Dixon’s slow starts were five results outside the top 10 including at Long Beach, Sao Paulo, the Indianapolis 500, Texas and Iowa Speedway. He closed out the season’s final three races with a victory, a podium and a top five to prevail once again over Castroneves.
Just two years after his third championship, Dixon was back on top of the season-long standings following another up-and-down year highlighted by three victories as well as four races in which he failed to crack the top 10. Despite winning the third round at Long Beach, finishes of 15th at St. Petersburg and 11th at NOLA Motorsports Park to open the season matched up with Dixon’s pattern of quiet stretches as a new season begins. His victory at the Sonoma season finale gave him 556 points and tied him with Juan Pablo Montoya. Because Montoya only had two wins, Dixon was awarded the Astor Cup.
With top-five finishes in the last six races and a worst result of 11th at Long Beach, Dixon’s fifth title seems entirely possible, especially since the New Zealander has dealt with more adversity to this point in prior championship seasons.
The next challenge for Dixon is the Iowa Corn 300 — a race he’s failed to win in 11 starts. His best finish at the 7/8-mile track is third which he achieved in both 2011 and 2016. He’s also been outside the top 10 twice. This record stands in opposition to one of his closest competitors, Ryan Hunter-Reay, who’s gone to victory lane at Iowa three times in 10 starts.
The green flag will fall in Newton, Iowa for the 12th time July 8 at 1:40 p.m. CDT.