IndyCar’s defending champion suffered mightily on Sunday, floundering at a track he’d won on multiple times. Already losing his primary sponsor immediately after the race, Dixon limped home to a seventeenth place finish. Equipment issues and slow pit service stemming from a faulty wire doomed his chances at the largely passing-free Sonoma Raceway. It was truly a pity.
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With a malfunctioning radio and no communication with his team, Dixon was forced to swap helmets on his second pit stop. The lengthy process necessitated removing his gloves as well, losing almost an entire lap to the field. In extremely unfamiliar surroundings, he disconcertingly found himself back with the Coyne cars. It’d been that sort of season for Dixie. He dropped out of the top five in points for the first time since 2005. It was a pitiful showing.
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After the horror show, Scott reflected on his difficult campaign. He spoke of “lots of emotions, plenty of ups and downs, and I think a lot of missed opportunities, too.” The Ice Man called missing the championship contest “really tough,” adding that “it feels strange.” Rightly so – it’s been over a decade since he’s finished so poorly. Bizarrely, and perhaps showing the strain of the season just ended, he then muttered something unintelligible about “fruit-ition.” Perhaps a juice drink sponsor’s in the offing?
NBCSN’s Daffy Leigh Diffey summed his year up succinctly, repeatedly referring to the champ’s “frustration.” Poor results poured in following the announced loss of Target, this after decades as a sponsor. Losing all but two races, an eighth place showing in the Indy 500 was emblematic of Scott’s entire year.
As Dixie’s long time strategist Mike Hull put it in an IRR exclusive, the season’s “downside is [we] could have been much better.” He also mentioned Scott’s wins at overly apologetic Phoenix and the forgettable Watkins Glen. Hull went on to blame a “separated ear piece wire” for Sunday’s woes, but the problems apparently run deeper than that. All in all, it was a dreadful year for the 2015 championship winner, who always won entertainingly – unlike this year’s heir, King Pags.
A real rarity in this world, Dixon – along with his helmet – is a class act and good guy. With four championships to his name, he’s solid enough not to be involved in any silly season speculation – one positive take away from an otherwise lean year. But looking ahead to the 2017 season – or 2016 do-over as we refer to it – his team, sponsorship and position atop the series are all in a state of flux. Just like his helmet.
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