Motorsport: Indycar battle

By Eric Thompson

Dixon caught in the pack as teams struggle for consistency

IndyCar driver Scott Dixon on his way to fourth place at Belle Isle, Detroit last weekend. Picture/Supplied
IndyCar driver Scott Dixon on his way to fourth place at Belle Isle, Detroit last weekend. Picture/Supplied

New Zealander Scott Dixon is one of nine drivers within a race win of being top of the heap in this year's IndyCar championship.

For the first time in years the two biggest teams in the paddock, Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi outfit and Penske Racing, have yet to score a win after seven races and six rounds.

There have been a couple of first-time winners, and Tony Kannan won his first Indianapolis 500 after 12 years of trying.

Some of the smaller teams, such as Dale Coyne Racing and AJ Foyt, have been able to get one over the established big boys.

And who's to say there won't be another different winner this weekend at the Firestone 500 in Fort Worth, Texas?

Now in the second season of racing the new Dallara DW12 cars, it's becoming clear that money and previous records mean nothing.

A large part of this new landscape of results comes down to the restrictions and restraints new regulations have placed on what teams can do to their cars.

The category won't like the suggestion they are now racing "spec" cars, but you'd be hard pushed to find a lot of difference, or wriggle room to fettle anything, in the 26 cars that make up the field.

It's all down to the pit crew and drivers now and the smallest of errors can mean a big drop down the field on race day.

Dixon's had a bit of a roller-coaster ride this season and has mentioned in a previous interview in Driven that his Honda-powered ride is down considerably on power compared to the Chevy-engined cars. The former Indy 500 and two-time series champion has been calling on all his experience to remain in touch with the series leaders in the hope of finding consistency and points.

Heading into the double header last weekend in Detroit, Dixon was eighth in the championship after a poor Indianapolis 500.

Keeping a steady head and some good work in the pits, the Aucklander notched up two solid fourth-place finishes to haul himself up to fourth in the series, only 20 points behind series leader Helio Castroneves.

"There was a lot of good fighting going out there in both races," said Dixon.

"The car had a lot of great speed so I was excited for the number nine Target team.

"We were fighting with Justin [Wilson] in the end for the podium finish, but I used way too many push-to-passes early on.

"I didn't want to push the envelope, though, and cause an accident coming from the back of the field in race one.

"The second race wasn't as physical as the first, with the caution periods and everything.

"It was still a gruelling day and we had a few issues with the car with the shifting, and then toward the end when we were on red tyres something broke in the suspension.

"It wore a big hole in the car so I'm just happy the Target car finished where it did today."

This weekend's race on the 2.5km Texas Motor Speedway is the start of four races spread over six weekends - two super speedways and two short ovals - and could just be the time for Dixon to strike and make a move on his championship opponents.

The numbers this season bear witness that no driver or team has managed to establish any dominance.

Six different drivers from six different countries have notched wins from five different teams.

There have been six different pole sitters, and the championship lead has changed five times between four different drivers.

If Dixon can manage his first season win this weekend, he'll be a good position to push on for the rest of the series.

IndyCar points after six rounds:

1 Helio Castroneves - 206

2 Marco Andretti - 206

3 Ryan Hunter-Reay - 191

4 Scott Dixon - 186

5 Simon Pagenaud - 177

6 Takuma Sato - 175

7 Justin Wilson - 169

- NZ Herald

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