Scott Dixon on first IndyCar win of 2023: “Feels damn good”

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It was an impressive performance by Iceman Scott Dixon to secure his first win of 2023 , which allows him to extend his IndyCar record of consecutive season with a race win to 19.

Scott Dixon’s Gallagher GP definitely didn’t start like he would have wanted it to, as he was caught up in the middle of a first lap collision between his teammates Alex Palou and Marcus Armstrong, spinning off the track and having to restart from dead last after an unfortunate touch from Romain Grosjean.

However, with his excellent fuel saving abilities, Dixon opted for an early pit stop under caution on Lap 5, and for two longer stints on the new sets of red tyres he had saved by not advancing to Round 2 in qualifying, reaching the lead of the race for the first time by Lap 32.

Pole sitter Graham Rahal proved to be a tough opponent as the RLL driver came charging back towards the end, but ultimately the six times INDYCAR champion took his 54th victory, moving up to P2 in the drivers’ standings, 105 points behind his teammate Alex Palou.

Dixon was very pleased with his afternoon in the post race press conference, where he broke down his recovery drive:

“It’s been a strange year for us. I think we had lots of opportunity at different races. It’s just never really converted. Yeah, crazy day. Obviously for me, I felt like I had a fantastic start. I think I picked up maybe five or six spots, then got to turn seven and there was a bit of a backup there, just got spun around.

Photo credit: IndyCar

“Now I can say I got a spin and win at Indy, which is pretty cool. I know it’s on the road course and doesn’t count, but I’ll still go with that story,” he added with a smile.

The Ganassi driver admitted that pitting that early in the race had been discussed even before the actual start of the race as an undercut possibility, which was realised with the aid of the spin and caution:

“Yeah, we talked a lot in pre-race about kind of pitting early, getting off the maybe not-so-good tire for us, which was the black, doing it around lap four or six. Trying to get the fuel mileage to get it done.

I was actually shocked just the pace that we had. The car just kept doing the same lap times, mid 73s to 74 flats. The fuel mileage, huge credit to Honda and HPD, it was remarkably easy to get.

“I think the pace and obviously the tire deg that we didn’t really witness too much was fantastic. Yeah, I think the only downfall for me was pushing too hard on the last stint on the first three or four laps, killed the tire a bit. The rest of the race we just kind of maintained a pace, it wasn’t that difficult to get.”

He also spared some words for the driver who led the most laps yesterday starting from pole, Graham Rahal, who almost managed to catch up to him, closing the gap at the chequered flag to 0.500s:

“Some big laps early on in that last stint because I knew I was getting a fresh set of tires, didn’t have to go that long. Kind of hurt it, I guess made it a bit of a show and a bit of a race. Feels good. Feels damn good to get this win. Feel sorry for Graham. But, yeah, this is cool.”

He returned to the final stint of the race, when the consistent seven seconds gap he had built over the RLL driver was eroded by Rahal’s efforts.

“I definitely noticed it. Yeah, I have a little gap chart thing on my wheel that I can look at. Even through sectors, see how he’s gaining, which parts of the track. Again, I think it was just my mistake for pushing so hard at the start of that stint and kind of hurt the tire, otherwise I think it wouldn’t have been too difficult.”

Dixon mentioned that he pushed too hard on his tyres at the beginning of his final stint, a mistake which left him unable to match Rahal’s pace.

“Even in the second-to-last stint, we were on used reds. We were able to maintain the gap to Graham or actually pull away. So I figured once we get to the new tires, we can really go. That was not the right thing to do.

“Yeah, we made a show of it. He was coming fast, man. It would have been interesting. I think once he got to us, it was going to be very tough to pass. We had similar overtake. Yeah, the 9 car would have been very wide,” he added.

The winner of the 2008 Indy 500 also discussed the thoughts that went through his mind as he was spun off track after a very positive beginning of the race for him, admitting that winning the race had always remained his goal:

“I know you’re never really out of it, right? Especially this team is a testament to that with all the cars that we have, just in general. I knew we weren’t out of it. I was kind of bummed because I’m like, ‘man, I had a really good start, picked up a load of spots’. It was wiped out within a half lap.”

“But again, I think you kind of automatically just fall back to how are we going to win this race from where we are now. I knew maybe the other manufacturer was going to struggle on mileage. The cars around me with the 12 and the 2 were going to struggle to do the pace that we could get with the mileage that we could get.”

“Yeah, I guess the biggest concern for me was trying to figure out if the tires could go that fast, especially being on the softer tire,“ he concluded, highlighting another key aspect of his winning performance.