Photo Credit: sports.usatoday.com
Let me first start off by saying that this title is a question Verizon IndyCar Series fans ask ourselves every single season at some point. Every year there is a point in the season where we look down the IndyCar championship standings and see Scott Dixon in an unusually low spot. However, for the last 9 seasons, Dixon has ended up finishing in the top 3 every year in the championship standings, despite where he may be in the middle of the season. Is this year really that much different? Well, we won’t be sure until the season finale at Sonoma, but here is what we know now.
Dixon, 36, currently sits tied for 4th with Al Unser Sr. on the all-time American Championship Car wins list with 39 wins. The only names higher up on the list than Dixon are AJ Foyt (67 wins), Mario Andretti (52 wins), and 42 wins (Michael Andretti). Dixon has the most career IndyCar victories with 38, and he sits a full 12 wins ahead of Will Power, who has the 2nd most career IndyCar victories of all time and is also an active driver.
Dixon sits tied for 2nd with 4 career American Championship Car series championships on a list led by AJ Foyt with 7 titles. Dixon sits tied for 1st with 4 IndyCar championships on a list co-led by both he and the recently retired Dario Franchitti, who was teammates with Dixon from the 2009 season through the 2013 season.
Dixon started off the 2016 season with Chip Ganassi Racing right where he left off in the 2015 season. He ended the 2015 season with a victory among 3 consecutive top 9 finishes, which catapulted him to his 4th career American Championship Car championship and 4th career IndyCar championship. This season, he started off with 6 consecutive top 10 finishes, including a win and a 2nd place finish. He looked as though he would challenge for his record-setting 5th IndyCar title, but since the Indianapolis 500, Dixon has not really been a threat to take over this year’s championship.
In the 6 races since this year’s Indianapolis 500, Dixon has placed in the top 10 in just 3 of them, and has finished on the podium only once. Even at Mid-Ohio, where he has won 5 times before, Dixon qualified in 11th and finished in 22nd after attempting an uncharacteristic pass on Helio Castroneves early on in the race and damaging his front left suspension in doing so. This slump has dropped Dixon all the way down to a tie for 5th place in this year’s championship standings with his teammate Tony Kanaan. He and Kanaan sit 127 points behind the championship leader, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud.
Also this season, Dixon has come in last place twice, both times occurring over the last 6 races. Prior to this season, the last time Dixon had finished in last place was in 2012 at Toronto. Dixon had gone 66 straight races since that race in Toronto without finishing in last place before finishing in last place at Road America this season, and then finishing in last place 3 races later at Mid-Ohio, a track that he usually dominates the race at.
If Dixon would end up in 5th place in this year’s championship, which is where he currently sits, it would be his worst championship performance since the 2005 season, when he finished in 13th place. Not only that, but if Dixon fails to win at any of the remaining 4 races on this year’s schedule, it would be the first time since the 2005 season where Dixon failed to win 2 or more races in a season. His lone victory this season was at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, which was back at the beginning of April and was the 2nd race of this season.
So many un-Dixon-like things have happened so far this season to Dixon, and many more are at risk of happening. There is still time, however, for Dixon to right the ship and prove that his career is not on the decline, which he seems to do every season. He can do so by finishing the season strong, like he usually does, and potentially even winning his record 5th IndyCar title. It won’t be easy, but you can never count him out, especially given how he knocked off Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya in the last race of the season last year after Montoya had been the series’ championship leader since the 1st race of the season.
The 4 tracks remaining on this season’s schedule are Pocono Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway, Watkins Glen International, and Sonoma Raceway. Dixon has won on each of those 4 tracks before in his decorated career, so counting him out of this year’s championship with still 4 races left on the calendar is foolish.
Another reason why it would be foolish to count Dixon out this early is because the season finale at Sonoma will have double points on offer for each finishing position. A scary statistic for the rest of the field is the fact that Dixon has not finished lower than 5th in a season finale since the 2005 season, so he will have a good chance to capitalize on the double points on offer that day, which is Sunday, September 18th.
If Dixon can do what he is capable of doing over the course of the next 4 races and stay in contention for this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship until the very last race, then he will be showing us yet again that, despite where you may find him on the championship standings during the middle of the season, he is not on the decline and is indeed still the same driver that IndyCar fans know as one of the greatest of all time in the sport.