Scott Dixon has been left to bemoan over the one that slipped away after coming up shy of a second Indy 500 victory this morning.
The Kiwi was unquestionably the favourite heading into the race and looked certain for victory before the final pitstop sequence which saw eventual winner Takuma Sato able to close the gap and pass Dixon by the time the #9 Honda made its final stop.
The strategic blunder by the usually flawless Chip Ganassi Racing crew did not become apparent until after the chequered flag, with Dixon adamant Sato would require a late dash to the pitlane for a splash of fuel.
Ultimately, Sato’s early pitstop came at the ideal window and his pace proved to be too strong across the final handful of laps as he expertly navigated lapped traffic, creating a margin as large as one-second over Dixon.
“It’s definitely a hard one to swallow for sure,” a despondent Dixon said after the race.
“We had such a great day, I dunno with fuel mileage there, I really can’t see how they were going to make it. We pitted a lap later and the numbers we had to get were going to be extremely difficult.
I think he even hesitated one of the times on the straight when I pulled out beside him, I think they were trying to figure out whether to save fuel or get to the end.”
The other contentious moment in the race came when the final caution was thrown five laps from home after Spencer Pigot suffered a hefty crash at the final corner, bouncing haphazardly across the circuit before collecting the pit entry barrier.
Commentators and several drivers alike were certain a red flag would come due to IndyCar’s reluctance to end races under caution. But ultimately nothing eventuated and for the first time since 2013 where Dario Franchitti crashed three laps from the end and saw Tony Kanaan win, did the race finish under yellow.
The year previously it was Sato who crashed on the final lap while challenging Franchitti for victory. Dixon finished second that year but said after the 2012 race he would like to see IndyCar adopt a green-white-chequered scenario similar to NASCAR which sees no race finish under caution.
IndyCar did clarify their decision to end the race behind the pace car after the celebrations had abated, believing there were too fewer laps to run that a full-field restart would be too difficult to organise and potentially be the catalyst for more issues.
“First time I’ve seen them [the race stewards] let it run out like that,” said Dixon.
“I thought they were definitely going to throw a red flag, which would have been interesting for the last four or five laps.
“Huge hats off to Sato, he drove his pants off today, and to Rahal Letterman Lanigan – they were super fast and a one-three [finish]. Big day for Honda, massive thank you to HPD, and it’s nice to gather some points.
“But it’s hard when it slips away like that, we were definitely in the right seat, I think we had the mindset and fuel to get to the end but if you hesitate, that’s what happens.”
A positive note Dixon alluded to is his points advantage over the Josef Newgarden has now extended to 84 points with five races set to run and no more double points on offer for the season finale which is slated to be held at St. Petersburg on October 25.
The recently postponed event Mid-Ohio is yet to find an alternative date on the calendar with its options looking ever more grim as the United States continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.