MADISON, Ill. — And then there were two.
Scott Dixon reminded everyone that we live in his world. Josef Newgarden’s championship hopes hit the wall. Moreover, how did two tire compounds affect today’s race?
So without further adieu, here are Three Big Stories from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
We all live in Scott Dixon’s world
“Scott Dixon decided to do a Dixon, today,” Pato O’Ward said, in the deadline room.
“How does he do it?” Dave Furst, IndyCar vice-president of competition and communication, jokingly asked O’Ward.
“Well, he just does it,” O’Ward said. “He’s just Scott Dixon, you know? I feel like that’s what he’s best known for.”
Dixon stretched his stint on Firestone red tires to 60 laps, when everyone else ran roughly 40. A timely caution let him pit for sticker blacks and exit pit road with the race lead.
Now he needed to hold off the field AND save fuel.
“I think probably the hardest part was the restart where we were leading, having to get a pretty high fuel number,” Dixon said. “We weren’t getting it. We were a ways off.
“But I knew we could kind of stress that kind of second through fifth pack, get them into a pretty vulnerable situation. I knew once we caught the back markers we’d be able to save and get beyond the fuel mileage that we needed to. It actually worked out perfectly. We were able to go further and beyond where we needed to.”
Dixon entered Indianapolis, two weeks ago, winless on the 2023 season. Naturally, everyone asked if he’d win, period.
Fast-forward 15 days, the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion not only has two wins, but he’s reeling in Alex Palou’s once insurmountable points lead.
Now it’s still his teammate’s title to lose, but Dixon won’t make it easy.
Though in the end, Chip Ganassi wins.
“I think what is special is going into the last two races, it can only be a Ganassi driver, which is very cool,” he said. “I know that makes Chip very proud, and the hundred-plus employees that work at that place, as well.”
In the meantime, Dixon celebrates back-to-back wins by downing cans of Stag with Marshall Pruett.
Josef Newgarden’s title hopes hit the wall
One picture says it all.
Newgarden, with the slimmest of hopes, needed everything to go right to catch Palou and win his third IndyCar championship. And for much of the first half, it did.
He led 98 laps and even when he fell behind Dixon and his pit strategy, he was in contention.
Then he hit a wall, literally.
He turned the wheel like there was no tomorrow, but to no avail.
His chance at sweeping all six oval races vanished.
As did his slim chance at the title.
Effect of different tire compounds
Sunday marked the first time IndyCar used different tire compounds for an oval race.
And the result?
Well, it varied from driver to driver.
Case in point, the race winner:
“The tire was kind of interesting,” Dixon said. “It actually had a good amount of deg.”
The guy who finished second:
“It brought in some pretty horrendous marbles onto the racetrack, which made the second lane almost impossible to use,” O’Ward said.
Both agreed, however, it needs more falloff.
“I think having an alternate tire, you really kind of want it to – I know Firestone doesn’t want to do it because that’s the product they produce, they produce very good tires – but I think for falloff like we see at Iowa where you go from an 18-second lap all the way to 22s, 23s, you have good cars coming and going, people able to make changes throughout the race,” Dixon said. “I think that’s what they need to bring back here, a little bit more aggressive for next time.”
Now while both series use different tire makers, these sentiments echo similar statements NASCAR Cup Series drivers made in June at Gateway. Denny Hamlin noted drivers could run 50+ laps on the same Goodyear tires and not experience significant dropoff.
So whether it’s a matter of Firestone and Goodyear bringing harder tires or the track surface, that’s for a more engineer-minded person to decipher.
As for the future of INDYCAR, O’Ward likes the idea of different compounds for ovals.
“I just think if they want good racing, we can’t be in single file,” he said. “Then even the lappers can be racing with the leaders.”