Dixon expects rivals to learn from Ganassi, Penske pit strategy
Road America Race 1 winner Scott Dixon says he’s expecting rival teams to follow the pitstop strategy followed by Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing when battle is rejoined in the second race of the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America.
Of the front-runners, all of whom had started on Firestone’s softer alternate compound, it was Team Penske’s Will Power who revealed the benefits of the undercut, by stopping as early as Lap 12 for a set of primary tires, and vaulting from 10th to third (aided by pitstop trouble for Graham Rahal). Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh’s Alex Palou did the same, and he leapt forward from ninth to fourth.
Ganassi appeared to learn swiftly from such tactics and at the second round of stops, the #9 strategist Mike Hull pulled in Dixon two laps earlier than some of his rivals, one lap earlier than others. He then found himself right behind new leader, Power, as polesitter Josef Newgarden dropped out of contention after stalling in the pits.
“It was very unexpected I think,” said Dixon. “I was chatting to Will after the race about just how big the undercut was. I was kind of shocked when the team came on [the radio] and said, ‘Hey, it's you and Will fighting for the lead.’ I thought they must have the timing and scoring wrong. How did we jump five cars in that one pit stop exchange?
“The undercut was big today. Interesting to see if a bunch of people jump on that. Yes, the fuel mileage becomes a little bit tough to get.
“I'd say our car is not particularly nice to drive. Hopefully we can come up with some changes tonight. I think there will be a lot more people that are aggressive tomorrow with that strategy and that undercut because everybody can see how it works for them.”
Why Ganassi is excelling
Dixon explained that IndyCar teams are still in a process of learning the nature and extent of the aeroscreen-equipped cars’ revised weight distribution and center of gravity and their effect on the tires. He feels Chip Ganassi’s squad is responding better than its rivals to the highly compressed schedule of the current race weekends, that today saw the race start less than five hours after first practice had ended.
“We didn't particularly have great speed this morning or even in qualifying… The problem right now is there's no time. [We had] 1hr15min practice, where typically we would have a couple hours in practice and those sessions would be split – you get some downtime, a bit of time to look at data. There were 200 or 300 channels of information.
“There's no time to process any of that stuff right now. You're definitely flying by the seat of your pants a little bit. A lot of these races, you're trying to test something to see if it's going to work because you don't have any test sessions.
“At least at the Indy road course you had a warmup to try to get through it. These doubleheaders for the crew and the team are just brutal.”
In the race, three of Dixon’s potential rivals for the win hit trouble. Newgarden stalled, Power had the wrong second gear and there was a fumbled pitstop that gave Dixon the lead, and Rahal also had refueling troubles at his first stop. The five-time champion, for whom this was a second Road America victory, commented: “You try to avoid those issues. We've had them many times as a team. The streak now, we're not necessarily lucky, but everybody has paid attention to detail…
“But it can strike at any point in time… So we'll keep our head down. That's all we can do. I think we've shown as a team in situations of trying to not make mistakes when others do, we've been able to gain from that.”
IndyCar Road America: Dixon scores third straight victory
Power left frustrated by pitstop fumble and gear error