Any hopes Scott Dixon had of winning a second straight Verizon IndyCar Series title — and fifth overall — took a serious hit at the most recent race writes Scott Walsh of the Times-Tribune.
His No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet made contact with Helio Castroneves' No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet 15 laps into the 90-lap event at Mid-Ohio. Dixon's car needed extensive repairs and he wound up finishing 22nd.
Compounding matters was the fact that points leader Simon Pagenaud won the race. Dixon lost 44 points in the standings to Pagenaud and now trails him by 127 points with four races left.
Pagenaud has 484 points, leading Team Penske teammates Will Power (426 points) and Castroneves (373). Josef Newgarden is fourth with 364 points. Dixon and Ganassi teammate Tony Kanaan are tied for fifth with 357 points.
"We were in a pretty big hole and that hole got pretty deep again," Dixon said at a recent test session for this weekend's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. "For us right now, the focus is on trying to win races. The championship, we're so far back right now we'd need a few miracles to happen. But if we go out and concentrate on doing what we can do and go for race wins it will definitely help."
Stranger things have happened, however. Just last year, Dixon headed to the season finale at Sonoma in third place in the standings, 47 points behind leader Juan Pablo Montoya. But Dixon wound up winning the double-points race and swiped the championship on a tiebreaker — three race wins to Montoya's two.
"This miracle might need to be a little bit bigger than last year's," Dixon said.
"Simon's on a great streak and Will's right there. We may be racing for third."
Dixon ranked second in the point standings in early June. Then a mechanical failure after only six laps at Road America caused him to finish 22nd.
He rebounded with finishes of third at Iowa and eighth at Toronto. Then came the incident at Mid-Ohio.
"There's been a lot of opportunities and a lot of speed," Dixon said of his season. "As a team, we maybe haven't done a good job in some circumstances and the rest of it has been pretty poor luck."
Coming to Pocono could help Dixon. He won here in 2013 when the series returned to the 2.5-mile triangular track after a 23-year absence. He placed fifth in 2014 and ninth last season.
He also hoped to glean something from the recent test session.
"Whenever you're on track, you're always learning," Dixon said. "Last year, this was a place I emphasized to make sure we come back and test."
Pennsylvania has been good to the 36-year-old driver from New Zealand. His first North American open-wheel series win came at Nazareth in 2001 in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Series.
Since then, he has 38 more IndyCar Series wins, including one this season at Phoenix in April.
His 39 career victories tie him for fourth with Al Unser and trails only A.J. Foyt (67), Mario Andretti (52) and Michael Andretti (42).
Practice sessions for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway are scheduled Saturday at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with qualifying in between at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday's 200-lap race is set to get the green flag at 3 p.m. Scott Walsh/Times Tribune