It started off with so much promise – fourth fastest in practice at a track he owns. Scott Dixon wasn’t going to clinch his sixth IndyCar title on Saturday at Mid-Ohio, but he was likely going to put even more distance between himself and Josef Newgarden.
But, a disastrous qualifying session turned Dixon’s whole day around. By the end of the doubleheader opener on the old-school road course, Newgarden had new life.
Starting 17th, Dixon rallied to finish 10th with a last-lap pass, but watched his point lead go from 94 to 76 over Newgarden with four races remaining in the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series.
Newgarden started third and finished second to teammate Will Power.
“It was a pretty interesting day,” said the 40-year-old Kiwi who has six victories at Mid-Ohio. “We’re still not sure what happened in qualifying – maybe a bad set of tires is all we can come up with. Starting back there made it a tough day.
“We went with a cautious move and made sure we ran the red tires first based on what we saw in qualifying. I guess, looking back, maybe we should have gone the other way but who knows? We made up a few places at the start, but that middle stint hurt because a lot of guys were on reds (optional tires).”
In his typically unruffled style, Dixon picked off four cars in the first couple of laps and with he usual great work of his Chip Ganassi crew, found himself ninth after the first round of pit stops. But he got shuffled back to 13th in traffic before a late rally earned his PNC Honda a top 10.
“At the end of the day we made up seven spots,” he noted, “so it was a small win.”
The guy who came from 22nd to first in 2014 claimed that the shortened race distance (75 laps instead of 95) pretty much took away any kind of strategy and made it a simple two-stop race.
“I think it made it pretty boring,” Dixon said.
Yet, what looked like a sure thing and another championship for Dixie now has a little bit of uncertainty.
“It was a good points day, but one spot further up would have been better,” said race runner-up Newgarden.