Scott Dixon was the most dominant driver throughout the NTT IndyCar Series doubleheader round at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 40-year-old Kiwi stormed to the checkered flag in the weekend’s first race on Saturday night, leading 206 of 212 laps en route to his fifth victory on the 1.5-mile oval. However, despite starting from pole and pacing the field for 163 of 248 laps in Sunday’s race, he ended up fourth and was forced to watch Pato O’Ward dance in the sea of confetti that rained down in Victory Lane.
From the drop of the green flag, Dixon appeared in control and cruising towards his 52nd IndyCar win – a mark that would have tied him with Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Despite having a commanding presence at the front of the field, the three-stop strategy became about hitting the right fuel number, which was tougher to achieve while leading. Slowly, other players – Josef Newgarden, O’Ward and Graham Rahal – came into the mix. By lap 140, Rahal was in the lead and Dixon followed in an effort to make better mileage for the three-stopper.
Although the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda regained ownership of the field, it would be brief after pitting from the lead on lap 186. From there, O’Ward and Newgarden, who pitted on lap 187 and 189, respectively, were able to work the strategy to get the best of Dixon, who also fell behind Rahal despite pitting on the same lap. It also didn’t aid Dixon’s agenda when the caution fell on lap 190 for a lost tire from Felix Rosenqvist’s car on the backstretch. The lost track position was too much for Dixon to overcome when the race resumed with 51 laps to go.
While the win escaped the clutches of the six-time IndyCar champion, he leaves the fourth race of 2021 with a 22-point lead over O’Ward in the standings. Making the long walk down pit road back to the paddock, Dixon was perplexed about where it all went wrong.
“Difficult to say,” Dixon told RACER. “As I said going into the race, every race is very different. You can’t think it’s going to go the same as [Saturday] night. I think we had really good pace, especially over the long run, and then nobody wanted to lead. So we were having to try and make a fuel number, and when you’re out front, it’s almost impossible. I was actually impressed by Honda and HPD that they were able to get the mileage that we had to, but on laps where we’d be typically doing 214mph averages, we were having to do 204s. So very strange. I got on the radio at one point, I’m like, ‘this is the strangest race I’ve been a part of for a long time.’ Frustrating.
“It worked out for those (other) guys with the caution. Josef got lucky with being in the pits at the time, and Pato jumped us as well because we all slowed down. I don’t know. It’s one of those things, but good points for us. I can’t complain.”