Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon admits that he needs to raise his game at this weekend's first oval round if he is to get his title defence back on track after two disappointing races on the streets of Florida and California.
Collecting the tyres in St Petersburg a fortnight ago, the Kiwi had hoped for better on the IRL's first visit to Long Beach, but was involved in two collisions - one if his own making and one not - that left him a lap down and only 15th in round two. The two results translate into 17th overall, some 55 points adrift of Target Chip Ganassi team-mate Dario Franchitti as the series heads to Kansas Speedway.
Dixon's fraught afternoon began on lap 17 when, having made up ground from his sixth on the grid, he squeezed EJ Viso into the wall approaching turn one. While the Ganassi car escaped largely unscathed, the Kiwi's victim was not too amused after seeing a best-ever starting slot go to waste.
“Things were going smoothly and someone ruined my race," Viso claimed, "I was running my line and, suddenly, Dixon changed his. I had nowhere to go. It's very frustrating because I had a good car and the tyres were working well for me.”
Despite slight suspension damage from the contact, which prevented him from pushing on, the champion was able to maintain a top six position until be punted from behind by Penske rival Ryan Briscoe while the field was running behind the final safety car of the day. The impact was enough to damage Briscoe's front wing, and leave a dirty black smear up the white-and-red Dallara's nose, while Dixon was turned completely around and required the attention of the safety team to restart.
"We were warming our tyres," Briscoe explained, "I accelerated while he was getting on the brakes and I ended up running into the back of him. It wasn't the best of days."
While admitting that his friendship with Briscoe led him to believe there was nothing malicious in the Australian's actions, Dixon admitted that he needed some better fortune in the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas - a race where he has never won but, conversely, never finished lower than fourth - if he is to maintain contact with his new team-mate, who has returned from NASCAR with back-to-back top four finishes.
“It's still early, it's only two races, " he told IRL broadcast partner Versus
, "There are a lot of points we have given, up but we can definitely come back from it. It's a very, very rough start to the year as I love the road courses, so it's unfortunate we are off to a poor start, but we will be fine. It's something we can come back on. We can, for sure, get back in this thing - Dario is leading the points right now and I have a lot of work to do just to catch up, but we knew he would be our toughest competition. I'm looking forward to Kansas."