IndyCar driver Scott Dixon is fast running out of time to defend his championship and win an unprecedented seventh title.
In the run-up to this weekend's race at the Grand Prix of Monterey, the New Zealander sits fourth in the standings on 428 points, 49 behind leader Alex Palou.
With just this weekend and the next at Long Beach to go in the 2021 championship, Dixon has his work cut out to eclipse the Spanish driver. Palou has three wins to Dixon's one this year, and is comfortably the form driver, consistently getting the better of teammate Dixon.
Chip Ganassi must be rubbing his hands in glee, knowing he's got two winning horses in this race, with a third outsider in Marcus Ericsson, who is 26 points behind Dixon in fifth, having won twice this year.
"It'll probably take me a couple of wins [to get the 2021 championship]," said Dixon on IndyCar Debrief. "It's been an interesting season for us, just a blah one. Indy [Indianapolis 500] was a big bummer for us and a huge loss of points.
"That was 60 points we lost straight to Alex in that one race. It's been tough for us but also great for us as the Ganassi team.
"Lots of ups and downs and not a lot of regulars [past series winners] in the mix, which is very strange for a year. It's good to see Pato [O'Ward] and McLaren in the mix as well.
"We're still there with a chance, and until we get knocked out, we'll keep our head down and keep fighting and hope for a smooth weekend in Monterey."
The drivers sandwiched between Dixon and Palou — O'Ward and Josef Newgarden — will also have something to say over the next two races.
Both will be eyeing the trophy but Dixon will be tapping into the experience that has yielded so much success in an IndyCar career stretching almost 20 years.
Every time Dixon heads on to the track, he and his mechanics and engineers are looking for the slightest advantage. He's renowned for racing in the moment and not letting anything in the past impede on what he's trying to do in a race.
"They [the titles] are like kids, I guess," said Dixon. "You love them all equally but maybe they were achieved in different ways. The last one feels pretty special for me, leading the championship from start to finish. That was a first for me.
"The first one in 2003, I didn't really know what I'd achieved and what we'd done as a team, and there was a bit of luck involved.
"Then we had the Montoya one , where we won on a countback. The ones you think about the most are the ones that slipped away unfortunately."
The Kiwi will have to be on his game this weekend and stay out of trouble, especially with his teammates, as he doesn't want a repeat of Portland, where he and Felix Rosenqvist fired off the track together.
However, he can't sit back and watch the race unfold before pouncing because the racing has been so tight this year. There have been nine different winners in 2021.
"It's intense, man. This season is crazy. Gone are the days where if you made a mistake in qualifying, you'd drop five or six places. Now, it's 15 or 16, so you're fighting over hundredths of a second.
"Even the smaller teams are well funded and there's not a whole lot of different things you can do the car. It's great to see now, with 26 to 27 cars stacked front to back with talent, and this season is a standout."