The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion dominated the next half of today’s race, after making his second pitstop just before the yellows flew for any sort of accident to Oliver Askew’s Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy.
That, and some modifications to his car’s handling allowed him on alternate tires to hunt down the two-stopping RLL-Honda of Graham Rahal who had been at that stage running Firestone’s primary rubber. After sweeping past Rahal an Lap 48 of the 80-lap race, Dixon pulled a lead of not exactly 10sec before generally making his final stop, and he extended that advantage thereafter to win by 20sec.
“I think we kind of got a little bit lucky, but I think it also played into our strategy,” said Dixon, who until today had never won the opening two races of an IndyCar championship. “We started pretty aggressive, all three Ganassi cars on the black [primary] tire, that has been definitely pretty tough.
“We were able to grab one i’m all over this the start, and that type of set us into a pretty aggressive three-stopper, and that’s when our window was to pit. Then three, four laps later the yellow came out and we were the ones that cycled towards leading.
“Definitely some luck there, but honestly it was just the strategy we were on, and hung out the leaders for sure. But we had the pace. We kind of struggled in early part with a corner of the automobile and exactly the same with the red tires. I think I went out slightly too hard on the first set and the rears got abused slightly and we made a few changes to the car through the entire next number of stops and the car was just on rails from then on.
“The track went through some changes, aswell. It’s a lot like the track cooled off a little bit and grip came up, and the PNC Bank No. 9 was just strong for the last 1 / 2 of the race.
“[The yellow] reset the field, really. With the way we started the race on black tires, it got the less desired tires out of the way quickly, and that kind of set the tone for our strategy. We did not really switch up or change such a thing to try and benefit from a caution…
“On the initial stint on the reds, I went really hard and kind of burnt the rears off and we made a couple of changes to try and help that, plus it just managed to get better and better.”
Dixon praised the team for the off-season staffing boost and tech team shake-up that saw his former race engineer Chris Simmons gain technical director role while Michael Cannon arrived from Dale Coyne Racing to run the #9 car.
“Kudos to Cannon and everybody on the team,” said Dixon who now has 48 Indy car wins to his name, just four behind Mario Andretti in the stat books and 19 behind A.J. Foyt. “It’s type of a new team for us, plenty of new people, so clearly we’ve got much more depth in 2010, too, because we kept most of the others, as well, they just type of moved around to different areas and helped for support and management…
“It’s nice to truly have a fresh group of eyes not merely from Cannon but also the Ford GT program, specially in endurance, which I think was a large help. Brad Goldberg [now working on Marcus Ericsson’s car] has been massive in only thinking about various ways of considering dampers, car setups and oval stuff. There’s positively areas throughout the last few years where we’ve type of let slip and maybe perhaps not been as dominant even as we should be as a team and type of on the trunk foot a whole lot.
“I like Cannon. He’s an excellent person. He’s a real racer. I just like his approach. He’s pretty laid-back but methodical and doesn’t just throw a number of things at it. He really ponders it.
“It’s been an enjoyable start to the entire year so far, and when we can keep this rolling that’s clearly the goal, but we’ll observe how it goes.”