NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Scott Dixon credits luck for being in position to put his name on another IndyCar Series milestone Sunday.
If the defending champion of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix starts the race around Nashville’s streets, Dixon will tie Tony Kanaan’s IndyCar record with his 318th consecutive start.
“It’s difficult to do you know?” the six-time series champ said Friday. “You got to have a lot of things kind of go right for that to be possible.”
Dixon could might soon have the consecutive start streak all to himself when IndyCar goes back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Gallagher Grand Prix on Aug. 12. For now, Dixon’s sights are set on trying to win for the first time since his last race here in Nashville a year ago.
That was the 53rd win of his career, breaking a tie with Mario Andretti and putting him second only to A.J. Foyt’s all-time record of 67 victories. That also extended Dixon’s own IndyCar mark for most consecutive seasons with at least one win to 18.
Winning in Nashville gave Dixon a chance to match Foyt’s record of seven series championships, but he finished third in the points race. That’s exactly where Dixon is now with six top fives and 11 top 10s, trailing series leader and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou by 120 points.
Last time here, Dixon overcame a poor effort in qualifying along with damage to his car and a crash-fest on the Nashville streets before outracing fellow New Zealander Scott McLaughlin to the finish line. Dixon was able to win by not making a pit stop over the final 48 laps and only five overall.
Dixon said this 2.1-mile track featuring a bridge with 11 turns is a bit more “old-school IndyCar racing” where a caution can offer opportunity to those who can take advantage. Drivers know this course, just 37 feet wide at its tightest and 80 feet at its widest, will feature some cautions and pit chances.
McLaughlin won the pole, and Dixon said he would’ve caught him with another lap or two.
“It’s a tricky (course), but you can still get it done,” McLaughlin said.
Starting up front helps on this particular course. Australian Will Power was the fastest in practice Friday with a top speed at 98.9 mph ahead of Palou and Alexander Rossi. Power’s best finish here came last year at 11th, and he made clear he wants to start up front Sunday.
“That’s been the issue,” Power said.
This will be the third and final race on this particular course.
IndyCar officials announced Thursday night that the course will be relocated to accommodate the Titans starting construction on a new stadium in 2024 with Nashville becoming the season finale for the series.
Drivers still will be able to run across that bridge before zipping along four blocks of Nashville’s honky-tonk entertainment district. Dixon called that exciting and a credit to Nashville because it’s not easy to host a season finale.
“I’ve been preaching that for the last couple of years it should be here, and it’s good to see that they’ve got a final race with a lot of energy and a lot of unknowns,” Dixon said.
Drivers whose contracts end after this season now can talk with teams about the future. That includes a pair of Swedes in Felix Rosenqvist currently with Arrow McLaren and Marcus Ericsson with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Rosenqvist said he thinks they’re in pretty good position 12th in the points race with six top 10 finishes. Still, he thinks the whole market is waiting on Palou.
“I think that fact has kind of pushed the whole silly season forward where it hasn’t really been any movements,” Rosenqvist said.
Palou currently drives for Chip Ganassi Racing and is set to move to McLaren next season in IndyCar. The Spaniard already is a reserve F1 driver for McLaren and currently is tied with Tennessee native Josef Newgarden for most IndyCar wins this season with four apiece.
Ericsson won the inaugural race on the Nashville road course in 2021. He currently ranks fourth with one win this season.
“It’s an interesting time for sure, and the next few weeks should be interesting,” Ericsson said.
REIGN ‘EM IN
Figuring out how IndyCar is going to punish drivers for incidental contact and wrecks during races has been a moving target this season.
Dixon said Pato O’Ward didn’t get anything for knocking him out of the race early at Long Beach. Yet Jack Harvey was penalized nine spots on the starting grid at Iowa after a bobble while racing three-wide in Toronto put everyone in the fence.
The extremes in penalties have had IndyCar drivers wondering just how to race.
“Everybody needs to know their boundaries,” Dixon said. “It’s a work in progress. But I think it’s yeah, I think it’s hopefully on the right track.”
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