If you placed a prop bet on Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville and predicted the winner and runner-up would both have first names of Scott and both would be New Zealand natives, you probably would have broken the bank.
But that’s what happened, as Kiwi countrymen Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin finished 1-2 to shake up and tighten the standings now with three races remaining in the season.
First off, let’s focus on Dixon, who won the race. It was the 53rdrd win of his illustrious career, moving him past Mario Andretti and into sole possession of second place on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, leaving him 14 wins behind the all-time winningest driver, AJ Foyt (67 wins).
Second, Dixon moved to just six points behind current points leader Will Power – himself an Australian native – with three races remaining. If Dixon wins the championship, it would be the seventh of his career, tying him for most IndyCar crowns with Foyt.
Dixon earned his second win of the season with a car that just wouldn’t quit. In fact, he and his team agreed that they didn’t want to touch it other than fill it with fuel on the last couple of pit stops, it was THAT good.
And their faith in the car paid off.
“I knew the car was super-fast, we proved that in the warmup,” said Dixon, who started 14th. “I think we did 45 or 50 laps on the last set of tires, the last stop we didn’t even take tires on the last stop. Man, Nashville is just so awesome.
“We were worried about (McLaughlin) because of the standings at the moment, he was super-fast as well and honestly he had fresh tyres. I was a bit of a sitting duck. If there was another lap or two more, it would have been tough (to win). Congratulations to him on a great weekend and hopefully it was good for us for points.”
Pole sitter McLaughlin finished a close second. He wished the race went just a little bit longer: “One lap,” to be precise, McLaughlin said.
“It was unreal,” McLaughlin said. “Good on fuel, good power, just fell short at the end. But congrats to Scotty (Dixon). I’ve always dreamed of racing him to the finish.
“I hate coming in second. It is what it is. I learned a lot today. It was a great points weekend. We’ll keep pushing the last three races.”
Alex Palou was third, his best finish since the conflict that arose on July 12 when he announced he had signed with McLaren Racing for 2023, even though Chip Ganassi Racing claims it has exercised its option year to have Palou to race for it in 2023. Things have gotten so convoluted that Ganassi has sued Palou for breach of conflict.
While neither Ganassi nor Palou would talk about the situation, Palou did at least have a smile on his face, saying, “Any day you’re on the podium is a good weekend. It was a tough day. We got some points back for the championship.”
Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta finished fourth and fifth. Sixth through 10th were Josef Newgarden, Felix Rosenqvist, Christian Lundgaard, Jack Harvey and Simon Pagenaud.
While the points standings are still a seven-driver matchup, it’s going to be a longshot bid for McLaughlin, who is sixth, 56 points behind Power and Pato O’Ward, who is seventh (-59).
The top five drivers with the best chance for the championship are Power (first), Dixon (-6), Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson (-12), Josef Newgarden (-22) and Palou (-33).
Three races remain on the schedule: August 20 at Gateway (suburban St. Louis), followed by Portland (Sept. 4) and the season finale at Laguna Seca (Sept. 11).
NOTES: Last year’s inaugural race was a complete sellout. Not so with Sunday’s second event as numerous empty seats were visible on the TV broadcast. … Don’t be surprised if the track layout for next year’s race is changed. There were nine cautions for 33 laps last year, and eight cautions for 36 laps this year (nearly half of the 80-lap distance), plus each race had a red flag race stoppage. … Simona De Silvestro was an early victim of a multi-car crash. It was her third and last race planned for this season for Paretta Autosport. The team hopes to have De Silvestro run more races next season, but no number of races has been announced. … Second verse, same as the first? Jimmie Johnson crashed late in Sunday’s race in almost the same exact place he wrecked in last year’s race – and in almost the same exact fashion – at the bottom of the big bridge over the river in downtown Nashville. Johnson finished 18thth in Sunday’s race. He’s now finished 18th or worse in 20 of his 26 IndyCar starts to date.
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski