Some notes based on the first two Indycar races of the season, at Texas and the Indy Road Course:
Move of the offseason
After two races in the 2020 Indycar series, there is no question what the off-season move of the year was: The signing of Michael Cannon (formerly of Dale Coyne Racing) to be Scott Dixon’s chief engineer by the Chip Ganassi Racing team. You can’t argue with the results as Dixon dominated both races taking an early lead in the driver’s championship. Granted, Dixon is no slouch and the team has done pretty well the last couple of years without Cannon. But Dixon hasn’t been 20 seconds better than the field before, as he finished the Indycar Grand Prix on the Indy Road Course. And he isn’t 2-to-3 seconds a lap faster that the rest of the field, as he was at key points July 4. Dixon re-started fourth on lap 41, he passed the three cars in front of him by lap 45. And by lap 51 he was 6 seconds clear of Graham Rahal, who finished second at the end of the race, 20 seconds behind Dixon.
Cannon and Dixon are both Indycar veterans, and they seem to be hitting it off, which is bad news for everyone else. After two races, Dixon already has a significant 29-point lead in the driver’s championship over Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. The early lead is amplified by the reduced number of races. There are already three less races than last year. There are effectively four less races from a points standpoint, as the season finale at St. Petersburg will not be double-points, as the finale has been in the past. Of course, there is no guarantee that all the races scheduled will be run, which puts even more pressure on Dixon’s rivals.
Disappointment of the season
There is no question about this one, either: Alexander Rossi. We discussed Rossi’s issue at Texas in our last blog post. At Indy, Rossi’s car had fuel pressure issues all weekend. He was close behind Dixon and Colton Herta and was in position to finish fifth or sixth. The fuel issues reappeared right after the only yellow flag of the race when Oliver Askew smacked the wall leading on to the front straight. Rossi finished 24th of 25 cars.
After two races Rossi stands 23rd, 80 points behind Scott Dixon. Winning a race is 52 Points.
The good news is that the next two races are July 11-12 at Road America. Rossi dominated last year’s race, winning by more than a mile. Of course in his other three races at the National Park of Speed, Rossi finished 13th, 15th, and 16th. Dixon is no slouch at the track. His last four finishes are 1, 3, 3, 5.
The week after that are two races at Iowa Speedway. Rossi has been consistent there, finishing 6, 6, 11, 9. Dixon’s last four finishes are 2, 3, 8, 12.
Lurking in the background
At the end of the season, Colton Herta was added to the Andretti Autosport team. Quietly, he has proved his worth finishing 7th at Texas and 4th at the Indy Road Course. He stands 4th in the driver standings, the highest-ranking Andretti driver, 46 points behind Dixon.
New this weekend: FANS
This weekend’s double header at Road America features something new for the Indycar series: fans.
The double-header is structured more like two single-day races. Practice and qualifying in the morning, with race in the afternoon. Except there is no practice Sunday. At this point the weather looks like mid-80s and partly cloudy both days. But it is Wisconsin in July and anything can happen.