LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — There’s none better than Scott Dixon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where The Iceman has a record six IndyCar wins and has only finished outside the top-10 twice in his career.
So he’s the favorite to win on Sunday, right?
Well, not so fast.
Dixon is on one of the longest losing streaks of his career — 21 races and counts since the start of last season — and he hasn’t won since 2019 at Mid-Ohio. He’s also in the lineup for Chip Ganassi Racing, which boasts a step down from reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou and current Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who goes into Sunday’s race as the IndyCar points leader.
Palou is fifth overall and Dixon, the six-time champion and most successful rider of his generation, is sixth and looking to get in on the title fight.
“We have to – I think that’s the obvious answer,” Dixon said of his season’s start. “I was hoping that the Indy 500 would bring the twist and kick we needed. It’s been an interesting year with lots of ups and downs and some missed opportunities.”
Dixon was the class of the field at the Indianapolis 500 in May and dominated the race until he was flagged for speeding in the pit lane. The penalty that followed paralyzed his shot at victory.
As the New Zealander processed the emotions of that defeat, his name suddenly popped up in a blockbuster free agency rumor. Zak Brown, the head of McLaren Racing, has long coveted Dixon and word spread after Indianapolis that Brown was trying to lure Dixon away from Ganassi with the promise of a managerial role at Arrow McLaren SP.
Dixon, who turns 42 later this month and is the fourth-oldest full-time IndyCar driver, said he has not spoken to McLaren. It’s possible his management may have made an offer, but Dixon remains above the fray.
“A lot of people talk. I even got a few messages from people asking about the same thing,” Dixon said. “When people have these conversations, I wasn’t a part of it. I love doing what I am doing and being part of the team I am on. Who knows what will come in the future, but right now I’m just concentrating on this season. That’s all I have to say. There’s really nothing to it.”
Dixon has a career timeline that he would like to follow. He ranks third all-time with 51 career wins, one win behind Mario Andretti in second, and he’s a championship away from matching AJ Foyt’s mark of seven.
“Honestly, I don’t see a change in what I’m currently doing for at least the next five years,” said Dixon, who enjoys the Ganassi lineup, which includes seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.
“I think the balance has worked really well as far as we got there and I think if you look at how competitive the team has been there’s definitely always areas where we can improve and have confidence Me, we’re working as hard as we can to make this happen,” Dixon said. “I love the dynamic at the moment. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a great group and they’ve already achieved one goal this year which is to win the Indy 500. Hopefully we can capture that second goal of the championship.”
Ganassi recently said he expects his four-car lineup to return in 2023, an indicator that things are progressing with Johnson in a third year at IndyCar. Johnson said on Friday that the number 48’s return next season was still a work in progress.
“Status quo — I saw Chip’s comments and thought that was a very PC-esque way of saying it’s staying the same,” Johnson said. “I share the same thought. We all hope that’s the intention. Lots of sponsors, you can talk to them and it takes until October or November for some decisions to be made. I really hope it doesn’t go that deep.”
With every new free agency rumor, Felix Rosenqvist couldn’t help but wonder where he might end up and if he even had a chance of keeping his job at Arrow McLaren SP.
He will be a McLaren driver next year but the Swede doesn’t know where he will wear the papaya orange. McLaren has signed him to a multi-year contract extension, but Zak Brown has yet to decide whether Rosenqvist will return to his spot at IndyCar or oversee his upcoming Formula E team.
Rosenqvist didn’t want to reveal his preference for 2023, but he was mainly being polite because his ambitions are clearly to stay with IndyCar. He and teammate Pato O’Ward are good friends and the team will expand with Alexander Rossi in a third car next season.
Rosenqvist noted that he has been on an upward trend with four consecutive finishes in 10th place or higher. He finished fourth at the Indy 500.
“Without saying which I would prefer, I think bad results here would make the choice easier for Zak,” Rosenqvist said.
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