Scott Dixon has started on the pole four times in the Indianapolis 500, and the first time he won. But after finishing fourth the next time he led the field to green, he then had the massive 2017 crash 53 laps after his third start from the front. Today’s hopes didn’t even last that long, as Dixon was forced to pit from the lead for emergency service in a closed pit and went a lap down.
Chip Ganassi Racing was confident in its speed but knew it didn’t have the performance to drive away from what had been the fastest field in the race’s history. So Dixon made his intentions known instantly as he let Rinus VeeKay and Colton Herta scrap for the lead, and settled into third place.
The approach was a simple one: Leading the race meant stint lengths of around 31 laps, but sitting further back in the queue could allow Ganassi to stretch that to more like 36 and do it on one less stop.
We saw how that panned out when VeeKay was one of the first to pit, but then came the yellow for Stefan Wilson’s pit lane crash and Dixon’s day started unravelling. He ran out of fuel, then couldn’t get the car started again when in the closed pit lane, and feels IndyCar’s rules around such a situation need revisiting.
Disaster for Scott Dixon!
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) May 30, 2021
“I knew it was coming,” Dixon told RACER. “I had that last year in Road America where we ran the car out — they just take a long time to prime the engine, so it’s frustrating. You try to get to the pits as quick as possible but I think IndyCar need to be more cognizant of how they can ruin people’s days doing what they do in closing the pits in those scenarios.
“At least if they kept it open, we could go to the back of the line or something like that. Maybe we should have taken the penalty earlier and pitted that first lap on the first lap.”
After Helio Castroneves became the joint most successful driver in Indy 500 history, Dixon crossed the line in 17th and was left to wonder how he has just one win to his name.
“It’s tough to swallow — when it’s the first pit sequence it’s very frustrating,” he admitted. “But at that point you can’t do anything about it, man. As soon as the yellow came, I knew we were in trouble.”
Up to that point, the New Zealander was comfortable. There had been no surprises, and he insists he didn’t mind that Ganassi ran so long with all four of its cars, with only Alex Palou escaping the emergency service in a closed pit penalty by stopping after the pits reopened and ending up P2.
“It was unlucky in the fact that the caution fell when it did, but maybe we should have managed it a little bit better,” he admitted. “We were just kind of cruising, trying to figure out how long the other manufacturer’s going to go and seeing what we could do mixture-wise for later in the race. Then that was it.
“The car was pretty comfortable — who knows what could have happened later; but it’s cool to see Helio get his fourth. That’s pretty special.”