New Zealander Scott Dixon must be feeling a sense of IndyCar deja vu this season.
Last year he spent the first eight rounds without a win as well -- but there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for the struggling Kiwi. Dixon has been nominated for the ESPY Award for Best Driver after the incredible comeback that saw him claw back enough points to take his third IRL title.
"It was an incredible year for the No 9 car and the whole Target team last year," said Dixon. "The fields are so tight in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, with the best drivers competing every weekend.
"2013 marked a great final run by our team to come back and win the championship, and I'm honoured to represent Target Chip Ganassi Racing as a nominee for the ESPY Award for Best Driver."
He staged an 80-point run in the second half of the 2013 season to win the championship -- and this weekend he's at one of the tracks he hung last year's return on. The double-header at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, Texas, is probably Dixon's last chance to kick-start his season.
It'll be a big ask for the Kiwi to stage a similar march towards the front of the pack as heading into Houston he's a hefty 166 points behind leader Will Power.
Dixon is currently sitting back in eighth -- more than twice the points gap he had in 2013.
It's not just Dixon who is struggling this year. Ganassi Racing expanded to a four-car team with Ryan Briscoe joining Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball -- and the team hasn't put a single win to its name yet. For a powerhouse team it's not looking good at all with Kanaan (9th), Briscoe (13th) and Kimball (14th).
There just might be a bit of hope -- after a similar start to the 2013 season, Ganassi Racing tested at Sebring International Raceway in June, and Dixon scored his first win at the next raceday.
If Dixon's team can get on top of the Kiwi's car and he can get on the podium twice again, it might just give the team the impetus needed to build some momentum and have a go at chasing the leaders down. There's no one issue that has to be sorted, although a distinct lack of pace is a problem. The change to Chevrolet engines after many years with Honda also hasn't helped.
Added to the mix was the departure of Dario Franchitti, who retired on medical advice, disrupting a very profitable working relationship with Dixon. There have also been a number of other team changes.
Taking all these off-season changes into account, it comes as no great surprise that Ganassi Racing is struggling to find its mojo. It will get better -- it's just a matter of time before it again becomes the well-oiled machine which has won six IRL titles in the past decade.
Meanwhile, at the sharp end of the championship, Power leads Helio Castroneves, with Ryan Hunter-Reay in third. Only 60 points separate the three of them, and with 110 points up for grabs in this weekend's double-header, the top four positions could easily change.
"We're looking for more pace this weekend and doing more of our testing later in the year [Sebring] will help us," said Dixon.
How the points breakdown
50 points to each race winner, 40 for second place, 35 for third down to seven points for 23rd place.
One point for pole winner for each race.
One point for quickest lap in each of the two groups in qualifying for
One point for leading a lap in each race.
Two points for leading the most laps in each race.
IndyCar points after 8 rounds
1. Will Power - 370
2. Helio Castroneves - 331
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay - 310
4. Simon Pagenaud - 279
5. Marco Andretti - 235
6. Carlos Munoz - 227
7. Juan Pablo Montoya - 223
8. Scott Dixon - 214