New Zealand IndyCar racer Scott Dixon had his worst finish in the American single seater championship in 11 years in 2016, ending the season sixth.

On the plus side, although it's probably little consolation for Dixon, he continued his streak of winning at least one race every year since 2005.

The 36-year-old has four IndyCar titles to his name, is the leading active racer for wins and is fourth on the all-time list, just two race wins behind Michael Andretti.

"It was a strange season last year," said Dixon from Phoenix. "We had a really fast car and some great results. I still reckon we could have won another three or four [races] if the car hadn't broken or the strategy hadn't been so bad.


"It's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, I guess. Last year was disappointing, really disappointing."

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Dixon is looking forward to the 2017 season, despite his Chip Ganassi racing team changing engine manufacturer from Chevy to Honda.

Ganassi used the Japanese engine maker from 2006 to 2013, with Dixon winning the championship in 2008 and 2013.

Not only will the team be under pressure to get up to speed straight away, they will also be trying to figure out how the new aero kit works.

"We're on a steep learning curve, having changed engines and running a new aero kit. It's going to be kind of interesting.

"Some of the configurations have been strong on some tracks during testing and not so good on others.

"I'm finding it a lot of fun at the moment. Honda is a nice fit with us, as we like to tailor a lot of things specifically for us and we can change a lot of things.

"A lot will depend on how we hit the ground running. Short tracks are looking like they might be a pretty tough fit for us but the super speedways look good for us.

"If you step back a bit, it's good for the sport to have Ganassi and Penske with two different manufacturers. This year might be a bit of a struggle for us, but I think once we get to 2018 with the combined aero kit, we should be OK."

Another major change in the series this year is how the push-to-pass will work. In the past, once the driver hit the button on the steering wheel, the extra power stayed on whether you liked it or not.

Now, however, drivers have the opportunity to manage how long they want the extra shove (no longer a set number of uses, rather total time) and they won't be able to use it at the start of races or on restarts.

"That's going to be so much better for racing. Everyone used to push them on starts and restarts, and only having 10 meant you used them up too quickly.

"Once you pushed it, it burnt them up. Now you can determine how long you want it on," said Dixon.

Team Penske will again provide the biggest test of Dixon's title credentials. There have been a lot of seat changes in the off-season but the Penske outfit will be highest on the threat radar for Dixon and his Ganassi cohort.

In the past few years, Penske drivers have vied for championship honours with the Kiwi, and heading into the opening round at Petersburg on March 12, it appears little has changed.

"Penske is really strong right now and have a really strong driver line-up. They work well together for the most part and that package is pretty strong across the board.

"It's going to be them, and Andretti at some places. Penske is definitely the one we have to do a better job with."

Long-time sponsor Target has departed and the team are looking at a number of options for the 2018 season. Nothing has been confirmed yet and discussions are ongoing.

"I know what colour the car is now and it's white," said Dixon with a chuckle. "Chip [Ganassi team owner] said it had to be white or black, and as we're the good guys, it should be white.

"I'm not too sure what he meant by that but that's what he said."