Ganassi's Dixon keeping pace with Team Penske drivers
Jun. 26, 2015
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Scott Dixon won on the street course at Sonoma last season and took the checkers on the streets of Long Beach this spring.
To complete a California sweep, he'll have to win at a place where hasn't before: Auto Club Speedway in Southern California.
"You always want to win, no matter what track it is," Dixon said. "It's rewarding definitely the first time you maybe get to have a shot at winning.
Fontana, we've had mixed results there."
A three-time IndyCar Series champion, Dixon heads into Saturday's race third in the season point standings, 45 behind Juan Pablo Montoya and 18 behind defending series champion Will Power.
Dixon is still in good position as the season winds toward its final two months, thanks to the win at Long Beach and another in Texas on June 6.
But making up ground has been difficult for Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates after the start Team Penske had to the season.
Penske dominated early in the season, when Montoya, Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud seemed to hog all the space on the podiums. Montoya followed that up by winning the Indianapolis 500 for the second time last month.
Dixon has done his best to keep up, sandwiching himself between Team Penske teammates — Castroneves is fourth in the standings — to provide a boost to a Ganassi team that has one other driver (Tony Kanaan in ninth) in the top 10.
"It's never easy; it's tough," Dixon said. "I think the Penskes have been extremely strong this year, especially on the street course scenarios, qualifying on the ovals. But I think hopefully we can have a smooth run and gain some much-needed points on Juan and obviously Will."
Dixon and the rest of the field will be facing a much different test at Auto Club Speedway than in the past.
For the last three years, Fontana held a 500-mile race under the lights in the series' season finale. Kanaan won last year's race while Power made a careful trip around the 2-mile oval for his first IndyCar title.
This season, the Fontana race was moved to June and to a daytime starting slot (1:30 p.m. local time).
Tempertures are forecast in the low 90s and plenty of sunshine is expected, so the track should be dramatically different from the past three races here.
"Obviously, different conditions this year going from a night race to a day race," Dixon said. "It should hopefully be not too hot. Looks like the temperatures are kind of mild for this time of year. But I think (tire) degradation and trying to maintain pace over a stint is going to be the tough situation, especially with the track temp being higher during the day."
Should Dixon find his way into Victory Lane, he will move within one victory of cracking IndyCar's top four for all-time wins list.
With 37 victories, the Australian driver is two behind Al Unser, Jr., and five behind Michael Andretti. The only other drivers above them are Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt, considered the best two drivers in American open-wheel racing history.
"To be on that short list of Foyt, Andretti and Unser is pretty astonishing. It feels great," Dixon said. "You know, as I've always said, stats are something that I hope to look back on when I leave the sport, and hope to be happy with what we've achieved."
He's been on a pretty good pace so far.
This story has been corrected to show Fontana race served as season finale past three years, not two of the past three years.