Toronto Indy: Scott Dixon seeks repeat sweep
Scott Dixon has been here before.
Dixon wasn't thinking about an IndyCar championship when he arrived at Toronto last year. He'd just won a race, but there wasn't any reason to believe he was about to turn his season around.
The next two races changed everything.
The 33-year-old Kiwi swept the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader, moving him from fourth overall in the driver standings to second and, eventually, a third career championship.
He enters this year's doubleheader in a familiar place — behind his rivals in the points race, but one terrific weekend from vaulting himself into contention.
"That's your goal," Dixon said. "But kind of the fun part at that point and, similar to this year, you're not really thinking about championship, you're just really thinking about winning races."
Considering the math, keeping his eye off the standings isn't a bad idea for Dixon. He enters the weekend eighth overall with just one podium, a third-place finish at Alabama, and trails leader Helio Castroneves by 140 points.
But with just four races left following Toronto, Dixon is encouraged by the difficulty contenders Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay are having as they chase the championship.
"It's kind of a strange championship," said Dixon. "It looks like no one is trying to win it at this point, but I think it will turn around.
"You'll get some sense of somebody starting to get on a roll as we go through this weekend and definitely onto the next one."
There's reason for Dixon to feel optimistic about his own chances ahead of the 85-lap, 2.81-kilometre street course at Exhibition Place, where at least 100 points are available.
Dixon started 15th, but moved up to finish fifth at Pocono on July 6. Last week, he started from his first pole of the season at Iowa and stayed in contention until settling for fourth in a tense finish behind third-place teammate Tony Kanaan.
The Chip Ganassi cars, which were inconsistent through the first half of the season, are suddenly competitive again.
"The cars do feel good," Dixon said. "All of them have been strong.
"To have all four cars in the Top 7 in qualifying in Iowa was no small feat and especially when Charlie [Kimball] was very conservative as well, too.
"So yeah, I think we're in a good place right now. Those were two oval races.
"Now we're going into some street-course racing. So a little bit of change in speed there, but I think everybody's confident to try to get some good results."
Good results have been difficult to achieve for Dixon so far this season.
He started strong with a fourth-place finish at St. Petersburg, Fla., but was 12th the following race at Long Beach. A podium came in Alabama, but his season hit a snag with a 15th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and then a collision that ended his day at the Indy 500.
Dixon came close to the podium at Detroit and Texas, but a disastrous doubleheader in Houston where he finished 19th and 18th, respectively, once again destroyed his momentum.
"I've made mistakes, the team's made a few mistakes," said Dixon. "We've struggled for speed in some areas.
"I think in some areas we just weren't that well prepared. Unfortunately, now it's kind of that turnaround part.
"We're trying to play catch up. So for us, right now, is to try to redeem all that we can out of this year and the best way to do that is with victories."
Another sweep in Toronto would be a good place to start.