Dixon breaks The Matrix Again at Road America

Scott Dixon staged a significant comeback drive – not for the first time at Road America. Image: Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment

Scott Dixon has shaken off a poor qualifying effort to threaten for the podium at the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America in what’s becoming a habit for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Four years ago, Dixon went from 12th to last after first-lap contact to finish fifth. On Sunday, Dixon went from starting 23rd to finish fourth, just 0.2169s behind Pato O’Ward in third place.

The six-time champion started the race with a pit stop on the race’s second lap to get off the Firestone red sidewall alternate compound tyres that were not the preferred tire to be on with Road America’s new pavement. Dixon’s pit stop was possible owing to a full course yellow to restart Kyle Kirkwood’s car that stalled after a spin exiting Turn 1.

Dixon was 19th after the restart and moved up three positions before his first “normally scheduled” pit stop. Romain Grosjean’s stalled car at the exit of Turn 3 when combined with the length of a lap of the 4.014-mile (6.459km) natural terrain road course gave the entire field a chance to pit before race control threw the yellow flag to restart Grosjean’s car.

Dixon gained two spots in pit road to 14th, which became 13th after Felix Rosenqvist pitted a lap after the rest of the field and 12th after Rinus VeeKay’s penalty to drop to the rear of the field following an unsafe release on pit road.

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The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner moved up to ninth place by the time David Malukas’ car stopped outside Turn 8 with a silent engine. After the full course yellow, Dixon moved to up to seventh on Lap 29, sixth on Lap 32, fifth on Lap 34 and fourth on Lap 40.

Dixon would advance no further but kept Pato O’Ward’s mirrors very full over the remaining number of laps.

I think once you’re at similar speeds, once we started to get further towards the podium of the field, it became a lot harder, a lot more difficult to pass people,” Dixon said. “It looked like for a moment there [O’Ward] was starting to lose his tyres. But once Josef [Newgarden] kind of pulled away, that clean air really helped him.”

“But yeah, happy with the day. Honestly, one more spot would’ve been nice to make it to the podium for the team, but, you know, just can’t thank them enough for the effort they put in all weekend.”

The work Dixon’s crew put in during the weekend was heroic if nothing else. After the well-publicized incident with Will Power during Saturday morning practice, Dixon’s crew determined that the tub of the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was slightly dented.

The tub was repairable, but not in time for Saturday afternoon qualifying, so the team had to bring out a backup chassis, fit the race engine in and put the car’s set-up on a newly assembled car with all hands on deck.

Dixon could not get through the first round of qualifying on Saturday, going off track in Turn 3 and spinning in the grass. That meant Dixon was not advancing, giving him and his crew another mountain to climb ahead of Sunday’s 55-lap race.

Having the second fastest car in the Sunday morning warmup helped.

“At least we didn’t have an incident, but it was a tough race, man,” Dixon said. “Like it was pretty flat out. I actually liked the dynamic where it was kind of pretty iffy offline.

“You know, you had to make sure you were committed to the pass. I think everybody was kind of a little down on how the reds were going to be, but they actually lasted very well for everybody, you know, we only ran them for the first couple laps before that portion. “

Dixon’s result puts him fifth in points, 98 points behind points leader and Road America race winner Alex Palou.

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