New Zealand’s IndyCar star Scott Dixon has made a solid start to the defence of his title finishing second in the season-opening race in Florida.
Dixon, starting fourth off the grid, showed good pace and his usual impeccable race management to signal he won’t be giving his up championship title without a fight as he tailed 2017 champion Josef Newgarden by 2.89s to the chequered flag after 110 laps of the St Petersburg street circuit.
And Dixon looks to have a new team mate with huge potential in Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist.
In his IndyCar debut Rosenqvist qualified third and held the lead at various stages before eventually finishing fourth.
Dixon had spoken of the hope of having a strong team mate this year to help his cause and Rosenqvist did just that as the Chip Ganassi Racing pair had an enthralling tangle with Team Penske drivers Will Power and Newgarden who started off the front row of the grid.
Power had to settle for third. Alexander Rossi from Andretti Autosport, who pushed Dixon hard last season, finished fifth, followed by James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and then Simon Pagenaud, the third driver in the Penske lineup.
Five-time champion Dixon, notoriously slow at the start of the season will be pleased with this effort and the ability of the team’s Hondas to mix it with the Penske Chevrolets.
It was Dixon’s 103rd career podium and equals his best result at the Florida track.
Dixon appeared to have the speed to make a real go of catching Newgarden over the dying laps byt lamented being held up by lapped traffic.
“You know the lapped traffic is trying to stay on the lead lap,” Dixon said.
“I thought we had a run on Josef, but once we caught the traffic it wasn’t enough.”
But Dixon was reasonably content with a race effort that saw him battle to stay hydrated as his car battled an issue in this area.
“It was pretty physical with no fluids,” Dixon told the TV broadcaster after the race.
“A big points weekend for us. Hopefully we can carry momentum. I still want to win at this place. Huge credit to Josef. He drove a hell of a race”.
Rosenqvist, who has moved over from Formula E, was happy with an IndyCar debut that saw him lead for 31 laps and only a questionable pit stop strategy hit his chances of a podium.
“We are starting off the season better off than anyone could have expected,” Rosenqvist, a winner of three Indy Lights races in 2016, said.
The second race of the season is at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on March 25 (NZT).