Scott Dixon opened the Portland Grand Prix by running a new set of Firestone’s slower primary tire improving from 16th to 14th before pitting on lap 13 to ditch those primaries for the faster red-banded alternates. He’d use alternates for the rest of the afternoon and deliver one of his patented drives that turned a dire situation into a podium at a crucial point in the season.
If improving 13 positions wasn’t enough of a statement by the six-time champion, the tire strategy by his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing team certainly made the New Zealander’s performance possible on a day where passing came at a premium towards the front of the field.
“In our case, because we weren’t able to qualify well, we had the liberty of having two sets of reds and one set of scrubbed reds,” CGR managing director Mike Hull told RACER. “And so we started on the primary tires for that reason. We knew we were going to come early, and Scott had to make some fuel when we first left the pit lane, but then we had a used set of reds for him to use in the second-to-last [red stint] because we wanted to have sticker reds for the end. And Scott did his part.”
CGR went into Portland with three drivers vying for the IndyCar championship and left with Dixon in the hunt, Marcus Ericsson a long shot to win the title, and Alex Palou eliminated from contention. Tied with Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden for second in the standings with a 20-point deficit to Penske’s Will Power, Hull is eager to get to Monterey for the championship showdown where his team was quick in testing last week.
“We’ve always liked our odds against Team Penske,” he said. “And it’s fun to race with them. You know, this team never gives up, and our team goal was to have Alex, Marcus and Scott fight for the championship to the last race and have the best person win it. Disappointing that Alex is out of it and it’s going to take a lot for Marcus to do it, but they’ll be there with us giving everything to the end, so let’s see what happens.
“You know, Penske tested here in Portland and did quite well today, and we’re hoping for a reversal of that from where we tested. So we’re gonna go race at Laguna Seca and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”