Photo Credit: Racing Junk
In early August, just over two months ago actually, I published this article, which you can read HERE, about whether or not Scott Dixon’s career is on the decline, and I left it kind of open-ended seeing as how there were still four races left in this year’s championship. In this article, I will address each one of the points I made in that article and link them to my final answer to this question, which I think I am now able to answer with some sense of certainty.
Note: Passages from the August article are italicized, while my postseason analyses of each passage are in bold print.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: This season, Dixon stayed in that unusually low spot and actually dropped another spot, ending up finishing in 6th place in the standings, his lowest finish since 2005.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Dixon was able to get another victory at Watkins Glen for his 40th career victory, moving him to sole possession of 4th place on the all-time wins list.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Unfortunately for Dixon, he was unable to capture his 5th IndyCar title this past season, and he is still tied for 2nd in championships.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Despite winning a race at the penultimate race of the season at Watkins Glen, Dixon was eliminated from being a championship contender before the final race of the season even began.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Dixon claimed just two top 10 finishes over the course of the final four races of the season and continued his un-Dixon-like moves with a crash at Texas when trying to pass Ed Carpenter. He ended up in 6th place in this year’s championship standings, 182 points behind the champion, Simon Pagenaud, the farthest behind he has finished in terms of championship points since finishing a career-worst 307 points behind 2005 IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: He did not finish in last place the rest of this season, but those two times he did were alarming, as was his late-race crash at Texas to give him a 19th place finish, which was the 2nd worst finishing position among those who continued the Texas race in August from back in June.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: As stated earlier, Dixon finished 6th in this year’s championship standings, his worst effort since 2005. However, he did win at Watkins Glen, giving him two wins this season, so he did avoid not winning multiple races for the first time since 2005.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Dixon did not right the ship, and he certainly did not finish this season off strong. He had two finishes of 17th or lower over the last four races of the season, and he failed to win the championship and actually dropped a spot in the championship standings over the final quarter 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.”
Postseason Analysis: Dixon did win at Watkins Glen and came out of seemingly nowhere for a 6th place finish at Pocono, but his crash at Texas and misfortune at Sonoma really did him in, and he was not himself at those tracks at all this season.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Well, that streak is over. Dixon finished lower than 5th in the championship finale at Sonoma with a 17th place finish for his first non-top 5 finish in a championship finale since 2005, and his only non-top 10 finish in a championship finale in his career. He did not capitalize on the double points that were on offer at Sonoma.
“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.”
Postseason Analysis: Dixon was eliminated from championship contention before the last race began even having won the race before at Watkins Glen. He is one of the greatest drivers of all time, but this season should serve as an indicator that his time at the top may very well be limited if not already over, and there are newer and younger drivers like Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, and Graham Rahal that all finished higher that him in the championship standings this season to whom he can pass the torch.