Dixon on verge of matching Mario Andretti’s win tally

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Perhaps most remarkably, his triumph in the first race of Texas Motor Speedway’s double-header means he has become the first driver to score consecutive IndyCar wins in TMS’s 25-year history and brings his tally at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track to five.

Asked what matching Andretti – on 52 wins, second in the all-time list behind Foyt’s 67 – and scoring wins in 19 straight seasons meant to him, Dixon responded, “They sound amazing. For me I never thought I’d be in this position.

“I had big dreams obviously, would always dream about winning an IndyCar championship or something along those lines. But obviously between how you dream and reality can be very different many times.”

All but one of Dixon’s 51 victories has come while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, and he is also a six-time IndyCar champion.

“Chip and I spoke just after this race,” said Dixon. “He was like, ‘Man, congrats on the 19 seasons. I was like, ‘Without you, this wouldn’t be possible, so thank you.’

“That goes for every team member on this team. It’s a lot of people. My wife, my family. These moments for me make it feel that much better because of the effort that a lot of people put into my program, even when I was in junior categories, to now.

“It feels amazing to be in this position. You just never want it to end. We want to go back-to-back and try to tie Mario tomorrow. I’m sure that’s not exactly what he wants to see!

“We’ll keep our heads down. It’s extremely tough. This season has been one of the toughest starts I think for a lot of us just with how tight the competition is.

“It’s never easy, man. You got to keep working at it.”

Asked what it meant to see that compatriot Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske had finished runner-up, Dixon responded: “I’m pretty sure that was definitely a first. It was fun. As I commented, it was really cool to look at that monitor on my steering wheel and see that it was the #3 car [who was closest].

“I haven’t even got to see Scott yet, but definitely a congratulations to him. That was a tremendous run. [He was] definitely very fast. There wasn’t much [tire] deg at the end of the race there, especially with the cooler conditions. Exit of Turn 2 just became a very long straight until you got back to Turn 1.

“Definitely didn’t want him to get too close to get that big run through T3 and T4, as I think you could definitely pull the pass off, as we’d seen earlier in the race.

“Huge result for a race for a couple of Kiwis, which is great to see. ‘Commenting pre-season, people were like, ‘How do you feel about having another Kiwi on the grid?’ I’ve been waiting 20 years for it!

“It’s great to see him over here. He’s a massive talent. He’s going to have a lot of victories, man. I have to try to hold him off while I can.

Regarding teammate, Alex Palou, who Dixon passed on the third lap to take the lead, the winner said: “He’s done a tremendous job. He takes his time, can be kind of cautious out of the box, especially in some of these first practices, but really works hard on understanding and making sure he doesn’t overstep the mark.

“Definitely a smart racer, driver, a huge talent. Definitely pushing all of us on the team, which is what you want. I think it’s really helping in the development side of the team and making sure that we’ve had some fantastic results, which we have.

“I was sad to see under caution there that Marcus [Ericsson] got caught up. [Tony Kanaan] jumped in the car and went straight to the fastest position in practice today.

“It’s definitely great to have strong teammates at the moment. Hopefully we can keep working on that and making sure all of us are in the fight come towards the end of the championship.”

Dixon entered the race as favorite, given the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s domination at this track last year. Asked how close his setup was to this time last year, Dixon said: “Definitely pretty close. I think there’s always off-season developments. I think with the drivers including myself, that definitely adds to it, right? Each person can kind of add to the debrief and figure it out.

“There were definitely four or five items that all of us needed to get through in that 75-minute practice which helped decide some of the changes on the car.

“Ultimately [the setups were] fairly close [to last year]… You don’t want to step too far out of the box. Our car was very dominant last year. Actually all three of us were very good in the race.

“It depends on the tire all the time. That was the hard thing for us coming to this race, is that we didn’t come here and do this test [last month’s 17-car test]. We were leaving a lot to the imagination to see how it was going to roll off.

“Ultimately T.K. went out, went straight to the top of the charts! Obviously the car was pretty good and close to last year’s car.”

On the subject of why none of the rival teams appeared to have caught up, Dixon responded: “I think a lot of the field got closer. I think that was due to the ambient conditions.

“Firestone brought a better tire than last year. Last year with COVID created some problems with them for manufacturing. It was kind of an oddball set they brought last year. This year I think everybody had a lot more grip. Made it a little bit easier.

“Qualifying, if we did have it, was going to be easy flat [throttle to the floor all the way around]. I kind of preferred the conditions last year with less downforce. We had higher amounts of degradation, though I did see some cars falling off pretty hard [today]. When you add these amounts of downforce, it makes it a little bit trickier in traffic.

“Ambient conditions played a big part today. Maybe tomorrow’s conditions will be a little bit different.”

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