Scott Dixon’s dominance in yesterday’s revised IndyCar season-opener was if the kiwi had never been away from the track – such was his speed and confidence in an entirely new beast.
But it had in fact been nine months since the five-time series champion last took the chequered flag.
Nine months shrouded in uncertainty and confined to home training as teams and factories were forced to shut their operations amid the pandemic.
Yet Dixon’s win now means he equals AJ Foyt’s long-standing record of claiming at least one victory in 18 consecutive seasons.
It is that level of experience Dixon has credited as the defining factor between winning last night’s race and being caught out by the narrow walls that characterise Texas Motor Speedway.
“I think experience is good most of the time. It can also set you in your ways a little bit too much, as well,” Dixon told RACER.com.
“If something changes, it’s not what you’re expecting — I think that can be a bit detrimental as well.
“But experience tonight definitely helped. You saw some people I think early on make some mistakes pretty quickly. Maybe, if they’d done a few more races before we got to Texas, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Despite a condensed schedule meaning drivers were permitted only one practice session and two-laps of qualifying, no more than four drivers out of the 24 field suffered separate incidents on the run up to the race.
The victim list even featured Indy 500 champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato. The latter was compelled to watch the race from the pitlane after damage to the RLLR Honda was suffice to rule the 43-year-old out of the event before the start.
Nonetheless, Dixon proved to be exceptionally quick all weekend.
Topping free practice and qualifying on the front row, the Chip Ganassi pilot led for 157 of the 200 laps, only losing control at the head of the field in the pitstop phases and the opening stint.
“The car rolled off really well,” he noted. “I knew we’d be working extremely hard on just trying to fix some of the issues we had last year. We had some new people, plus a ton coming back over from the (discontinued) GT program. The engineering depth and everything got a lot stronger, so development was good through the winter.
“The DIL — the simulator with Honda that we’ve been using for the last three weeks in preparation for Texas — has been really good. Lots of things we didn’t think we would try or have the time to try on track, we were able to kind of do that. Gave us some ideas. We were able to sort of verify them once we got here.”
Dixon will now have over a month to bath in the spotlight as championship leader before the IndyCar field head to Indianapolis for the GMR Indy Grand Prix on July 4.