ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Scott Dixon is off to one of the best starts in his career with wins in the first two races of the NTT IndyCar Series season.
The five-time series champion will attempt to start the season with three-straight victories during this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR at Road America.
At 39, Dixon remains an outstanding athlete. He’s going to need that physical fitness the next two weekends with back-to-back doubleheaders beginning with Saturday’s race at Road America.
Another race is scheduled for Sunday. Next Friday night, IndyCar hits Iowa Speedway’s short oval for the first of two races. The second race is scheduled for next Saturday night.
“There are different things that go into it,” Dixon said of the jam-packed schedule. “One, is the preparation. Two, it’s how good your car is. If your car is good, then it’s much easier to drive a lot of times, too. I’ve had days when it’s been brutal because you are fighting the car the whole time.
“Iowa could be one of the toughest weekends the whole year. It is super physical with the G loading. You get barely no rest on the straights. Both days are extremely packed with running and you have the heat with the screen and running through the day. It won’t really be dark by the time the races are over.
“These weekends have an opportunity to create a bit of havoc with people not being prepped as much as well as they could have been. That goes for the teams as well as the drivers. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
“You just want to get out of these four races as clean as possible.”
This is the first season the cars in the NTT IndyCar Series are utilizing the aeroscreen cockpit protection device that partially surrounds the driver. Because of that screen, cockpit temperatures have risen dramatically and cooling the driver remains a work in progress.
“The heat is something all drivers noticed at the Indy road course with the aero screen,” Dixon said. “That will be quite draining. The hardest part for any doubleheader is really the crews. Whether its pit stops in the heat and the sun to having to rebuild these cars. You will get done so late on the first day. It’s an extremely long day. It starts at 6 a.m. and they won’t be done rebuilding cars until midnight. The race starts before 12 noon on Sunday.
“That whole layout will be grueling.”
Dixon stressed that he is not concerned with the increase in temperature because of the aeroscreen. He believes IndyCar officials continue to come up with tweaks to create a cooler atmosphere inside the cockpit. An additional air inlet behind the driver has been added, beginning with this weekend’s doubleheader at Road America.
“I think it has been OK,” Dixon said. “After the race on the Indy road course, I felt it was a pretty difficult race, but it was also the hottest race of the year outside of the doubleheaders. IndyCar has done a very good job with the additions they have had, whether it is the holes in the front of the nose-box to the dash stuff to adding the helmet tube. We thought maybe we wouldn’t need the helmet tube, but that has been one of the biggest additions we have had.
“I wouldn’t say we are in dire straits. Nobody has passed out. I hope nobody passes out. There have been drivers that have struggled, but hey, this is a tough, physical sport and you need to be on top of it.
“They have some pieces for this weekend. There are some emails floating around of things to try. It’s more of a flow situation. It seems for whatever reason, right in front of the helmet, it seems to be a dead zone. Nothing seems to move. It’s really weird. We don’t know why. With the open top part and the speeds, we are going creates a low pressure right there.
“It will take a bit of science and a bit of aerodynamics and they will figure it out. I wouldn’t say it’s a grave situation; just something that can be improved.”
On the track, Dixon expects a resurgence from Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport. Rossi is the defending race winner at Road America. He dominated last year’s race at Road America, winning by more than 28 seconds and leading all 55 laps.
An electronic malfunction at the start of the Texas race and a fuel-pressure issue that knocked him out of last Saturday’s race at Indianapolis after 41 laps has Rossi 23rd in points entering the doubleheader weekend.
“Nothing surprises me these days with the competition and the format how these races have been,” Dixon said of Rossi’s early-season woes. “If you have a couple of issues like they have had, you can’t rebound from it because of lack of practice time. If there is a snafu early, you have trouble recovering.
“They had a problem at Indy road course whether it was fueling or electronic. If it was a three-day event, they would have had time to figure that out. With the compressed schedule, that wasn’t the case. Texas, with it being an impound race, created a bug nobody realized we had.
“I remember sitting at Long Beach 18th at points after an issue at Barber and St. Pete. It can happen. He’s a hell of a fast driver and they are a great team. I see them rebounding pretty quick. Elkhart Lake was a great race for them last year. They will be strong.
“I just hope they won’t be strong enough,” Dixon quipped.