This week we welcome a new contributor, Jonathan Green. Jonathon is based in Austin Texas, and will give us an inside view on what is happening in the US motorsport scene. Many will recognise his voice from the Castrol Toyota Racing Series as he has been coming to New Zealand for the summer series for many years. Jonathon will contribute a bi-weekly column for Talkmotorsport on Friday’s.
The 2019 Indy Car Series is well underway with three races in the books and Round 4 in Long Beach, California coming up this weekend.
For five-time champion Scott Dixon, the defense of his title is also well under way as he seeks to go for back to back titles for the first time in his career.
That said, this title chase could well prove to be the toughest yet in Scott’s distinguished and unparalleled 19 year history of Cart and Indy Car racing.
Currently Scott lies second in the championship 27-points behind Round One winner Josef Newgarden having scored second place at both St Petersburg and Barber, Alabama last weekend. At the second round at the circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the Chip Ganassi #9 seemed relatively out of sorts by their standards with a 13th place finish having qualified sixth.
Dixon had raced through the field and was third when called to the pits under the only full-course caution of the day on Lap 46. His frustration after Austin was clear for the usually unflappable Kiwi was at a loss for how to sum up his day.
“It wasn’t our best race with the PNC Bank team, I’m really not sure what to say about it. I’m pretty frustrated and not sure what else to say.”
His first round second place at St Petersburg wasn’t without drama either as he only made the fast six after Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing initially advanced from his group in the first round but was penalized for causing a local yellow flag that impeded the qualifying effort of another car. As per the INDYCAR rules, Sato forfeited his fastest lap to that point, preventing advancing to the second round and allowing Dixon to move on instead. A lucky break perhaps, but one that Scott took full advantage of finishing his opening weekend with an excellent second.
Last weekend’s second place at Barber was also hard fought as in the closing stages Scott was under enormous pressure from four-time champion Sebastian Bourdais who had twice as much push to pass as the five time Indy champion, but just couldn’t find a way to get a run on Dixon and get near enough to use his extra power effectively. Scott drove the last lap superbly using all the road through turn 2 and defending his line at the obvious over taking sports on the narrow Barber course to bring home yet another strong performance to take second place again.
The American commentators love to wax rhapsodic with their endless statistics about how disappointed Scott must be having never to have never won in Alabama with six runner up spots to his name and the same in St Pete his fourth second-place, having never won the Florida race in 15 attempts.
In my opinion Scott Dixon doesn’t give a jot about the runner up stats race by race as he’s just goes about his business as only he knows how and that’s why he’s a five time champion and is slowly rewriting the Indy Car record books.
This weekend at Long Beach is a venue Scott has won at back in 2015 and with the month of May just around the corner with the Indy Grand Prix and the Indy 500 it’s the perfect time for another visit to victory lane in California.
Scott has three major obstacles to overcome if he is to indeed power on to title number six. His new young teammate Felix Rosenquist is fast and proved it by out qualifying him in Round 1 at St Pete.
Second, this year’s Indy field is probably the strongest in history and when you consider that the last two races were won by an 18-year-old and a 42-year-old. Colton Herta become the youngest ever Indy winner in Texas at Round 2 and Takuma Sato won a dominant flag to flag victory last weekend at Barber to prove he’s still got what it takes to win and win well.
Finally and this may be the toughest of the three, he and and his strategist Mike Hull are struggling to set up the car in order to get the tyres to last long stints especially on the option tyre.
After the Barber race on Sunday Scott told reporters:
“It was really tough we had a lot of “deg” (tyre degradation) we are able to go for most of the race, but the last ten laps were just miserable. We were just trying to hold on and every-time he (Bourdais) made an attack I tried to push more and the tyres just cried more. As a team going forward we have to look at what we are doing for the longevity of the stints (for tyre wear). And make sure we can clear that up.”
Longevity has been the story of Scotts career as he goes in search of a sixth title which would be an amazing feat in his illustrious career putting him in rarefied air with only AJ Foyt with seven-titles as the only driver ahead of him in the record books. Now the ttres just need to get with programme and last longer because Scott is in for the long haul though 2019 could prove to be his toughest challenge to date.