After taking his second win of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon has said that his team’s strategy paid off massively after a lucky caution. Dixon had the win all but secured for himself when a caution came at the perfect time to make his strategy pay off.
Heading into the weekend, Dixon was hoping to back up his win at the season-opening Genesys 300 with another strong finish as he continues to lay the foundations for a potential championship challenge by the end of the season.
A decent practice session saw Dixon take the fifth-fastest time, but qualifying would see the New Zealander frustratingly miss out on making it through to the pole position shootout by just five-hundredths of a second. After the session, Dixon would admit that the team were still trying to find the right aero levels that would yield the best results.
“We went through a bit of an aero experiment,” Dixon said after qualifying on Friday, “We tried some different things up and down on downforce between the black and red tire runs. I don’t think we nailed it maybe as best as we could have, but on the red tires we were pretty good. We were definitely pretty close, though, with the PNC Bank car, and maybe some of the guys we didn’t think would have been up there ended up being up there to challenge. It will make for an interesting race tomorrow, for sure.”
At the start of the race on Saturday, Dixon would gain a position on the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Oliver Askew, but he would then hold his position in sixth-place.
The plan for many heading into the race was to execute a two-stop strategy. However, it soon became apparent that this would be quite a difficult task. Dixon, along with his Ganassi team-mates – Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson – would commit early to switching over to a three-stop strategy. Dixon’s pace after his first pit-stop would be enough to see much of the field follow suit.
Despite having dragged the majority of the field over to the three-stop strategy, Dixon was still running in sixth place. However, shortly after pitting for his second pit-stop, a caution would be called. Oliver Askew’s wreck at the final corner came at the perfect time, as it trapped the remaining leaders out on the track and forced them to pit when the field was bunched up behind the pace car. This would take the previous leader and pole-sitter, Will Power, as well as Josef Newgarden and Jack Harvey, all but out of contention.
For the ensuing restart, Dixon would line-up in fourth place. The only cars ahead of him would be the three drivers who were still trying to get the two-stop strategy to work; Graham Rahal, Spencer Pigot and Conor Daly. All three would be forced to drive conservatively and would, therefore, be unable to fight off Dixon.
Once Dixon was out in the lead, there was no stopping him. He would go on to build an almost ten-second lead before making his final pit-stop. The stop would drop him down to ninth place, but he would easily cycle back through to the lead once the rest of the field came to the pits for their own stops.
Despite being comfortably out in the lead, Dixon’s advantage would continue to grow and grow. By the time he crossed the line to take the chequered flag, his lead over second-placed Rahal stood at over twenty seconds.
The victory would continue Dixon’s superb start to the 2020 season. His pair of victories in the opening two races means that he now leads the championship with an advantage of twenty-nine points over Simon Pagenaud. If his form continues like this, he will absolutely be in with a chance of taking his sixth NTT IndyCar Series title.
After the race, Dixon admitted that the timing of the caution had played a big role in his eventual victory. However, he insisted that the team’s fantastic strategy had been what ultimately put them in a position to succeed.
“I think we got a little lucky but it also played into the aggressive strategy we had with electing to take the primary Firestone tires at the start with everyone else on reds,” Dixon said on Saturday. “The yellow came out right in our window and it hung out the leaders but we definitely had the pace. We made some simple changes to keep up with a cooling track but after that, the PNC Bank car was on rails and we just took off.”
Dixon will be hoping that his run of good form continues into next weekend’s doubleheader at Road America. Scott took victory at the track back in 2017 and will be hoping to do so once again.
The REV Group Grand Prix will take place across Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12.