Dixon: Indy GP favored Ganassi’s aggressive team strategy
GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner Scott Dixon says the timing of the race’s only full-course caution meshed ideally with Chip Ganassi Racing’s “aggressive” race strategy.
The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion dominated the second half of today’s race, after making his second pitstop just before the yellows flew for an accident to Oliver Askew’s Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy.
That, and some modifications to his car’s handling allowed him on alternate tires to hunt down the two-stopping RLL-Honda of Graham Rahal who was at that stage running Firestone’s primary rubber. After sweeping past Rahal an Lap 48 of the 80-lap race, Dixon pulled a lead of nearly 10sec before making his final stop, and he extended that advantage thereafter to win by 20sec.
“I think we kind of got a little bit lucky, but I think it also played into our strategy,” said Dixon, who until today had never won the opening two races of an IndyCar championship. “We started pretty aggressive, all three Ganassi cars on the black [primary] tire, which was definitely pretty tough.
“We were able to pick up one spot on the start, and that kind of set us into a pretty aggressive three-stopper, and that’s when our window was to pit. Then three, four laps later the yellow came out and we were the ones that cycled towards the front.
“Definitely a little bit of luck there, but honestly it was just the strategy we were on, and hung out the leaders for sure. But we had the pace. We kind of struggled in the early part with the rear of the car and the same with the red tires. I think I went out a little bit too hard on the first set and the rears got abused a little bit and we made several changes to the car throughout the next couple of stops and the car was just on rails after that.
“The track went through some changes, as well. It’s kind of like the track cooled off a little bit and grip came up, and the PNC Bank No. 9 was just strong for the last half of the race.
“[The yellow] reset the field, really. With the way we started the race on black tires, it got the less desired tires out of the way quickly, and that kind of set the tone for our strategy. We didn’t really switch up or change anything to try and take advantage of a caution…
“On the first stint on the reds, I went really hard and kind of burnt the rears off and we made a couple of changes to try and help that, and it just made it better and better.”
Dixon praised the team for the off-season staffing boost and tech team shake-up that saw his former race engineer Chris Simmons gain technical director role while Michael Cannon arrived from Dale Coyne Racing to run the #9 car.
“Kudos to Cannon and everybody on the team,” said Dixon who now has 48 Indy car wins to his name, just four behind Mario Andretti in the stat books and 19 behind A.J. Foyt. “It’s kind of a new team for us, a lot of new people, so obviously we’ve got a lot more depth this year, too, because we kept most of the other people, as well, they just kind of moved around to different areas and helped for support and management…
“It’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes not just from Cannon but also the Ford GT program, especially in endurance, which I think was a big help. Brad Goldberg [now working on Marcus Ericsson’s car] has been massive in just thinking about different ways of looking at dampers, car setups and oval stuff. There’s definitely areas over the last few years where we’ve kind of let slip and maybe not been as dominant as we should be as a team and kind of on the back foot a lot.
“I like Cannon. He’s a great person. He’s a real racer. I just like his approach. He’s pretty laid-back but methodical and doesn’t just throw a bunch of things at it. He really thinks about it.
“It’s been a fun start to the year so far, and if we can keep this rolling that’s obviously the goal, but we’ll see how it goes.”
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