A curious year for the five-time and defending IndyCar champion from Chip Ganassi Racing, and it was a season-long performance that left some observers with diametrically opposing views.
“I think Dixon just keeps getting better,” murmured one of his regular rivals at season’s end. “He’s not gaining new strengths, but his strengths are still getting stronger.”
Yet one of Ganassi’s rival team owners said: “I think Scott’s starting to lose just a percent or half a percent. I mean, I’d still want him on our team, obviously, but maybe I’d only sign him up for two years.”
Here at Autosport, we’re in the former camp. Yes, there were two notable blunders from the #9 driver this year – clipping the wall in Detroit's opener and having an unnecessary clash with Colton Herta at Texas Motor Speedway. But these two letdowns sandwiched a perfect drive to victory in Detroit's finale. And Dixon’s win at Mid-Ohio was truly remarkable. His last set of tyres was absolutely fried in the closing stages, yet he successfully held off his uber-talented team-mate Felix Rosenqvist, desperate for his first victory.
Car failures at Gateway and Portland tore asunder any hopes that Dixon had of retaining his title (he’s still never won the championship in back-to-back seasons) but when his machinery allowed him, Dixon was still masterful at making the best of the bad days – a quality notably lacking in some of his most prominent rivals.
Yet the quality that most inclines us toward the ‘Dixon keeps getting better’ viewpoint is his qualifying record compared with Rosenqvist, who rocked the veteran back on his heels by out-qualifying him three times in the first five races. But over the remaining 12 events, the #10 would start ahead of the #9 just once.