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Padded Points Lead Doesn’t Ease Near-Miss ‘500’ Pain for Dixon

While the disappointment of not winning the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday will linger for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, there is consolation.

A sixth NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship is now well within his grasp.

It can be described as a firm hold Dixon has on the path to the title. His lead over reigning series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske stands at 84 points -- effectively, that’s almost a two-race lead with the season winding down.

Next up is the doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on Aug. 29-30. But that’s for another day.

For now, the pain of having a possible second “500” victory and a 50th career series win slip away at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is real. Dixon, the 2008 winner, led a race-high 111 laps and was only passed by two drivers during the 200 laps – Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato.

Sato and Dixon were the class of the field in the late going, and Dixon’s team suspected Sato was low on fuel and might not make it to the finish had the race stayed green. They’ll never know because Spencer Pigot’s crash coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 195 scattered debris over the track and would have necessitated a lengthy cleanup. Race officials deemed there were too few remaining laps to gather the field, issue a red flag and execute a restart.

Dixon thought it might have been possible to have a three-lap shootout – that “would have been pretty fair” – but he wasn’t dwelling on it in his post-race online news conference.

“I think there’s always many turning points that you could have done a little bit different,” he said. “Ultimately, if it had gone green all the way, maybe (Sato) would have run out of fuel. I don’t know scenarios like that. It seemed from our point of view that was definitely possible.

“Where (Sato) did lean out for a lap or three-quarters of a lap, that’s where we got a big run on him. That would have been the pace they’d have run to the end. I don’t know.

“I’m going to be bummed, I’ll tell you that. That’s a given.”

Dixon, who started second, led 78 of the race’s first 100 laps before engaging in a lead-swapping stage with Rossi. Over 19 laps, Dixon and Rossi passed each other 13 times approaching Turn 1. Dixon said they were working together to create separation from the rest of the drivers in the lead pack.

But the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda didn’t make fuel mileage as well in the second half of the race as it had in the first. After Rossi’s team was penalized for an unsafe pit road release, Dixon was left to fend off Sato, the 2017 race winner, and he couldn’t.

Thus, Dixon had to settle for his third career runner-up finish in the “500” and his eighth career top five. He also jumped six positions in the event’s all-time lap leader chart with 563. Only Al Unser (644) and Ralph DePalma (612) have led more laps at IMS.

“It was definitely a good day,” Dixon said. “Everything we did on strategy was on point. We definitely had a really fast car.

“I think everybody (on the team) did a fantastic job. Maybe I could have changed some of the things I did toward the end of the race, but it’s easy to second-guess yourself and second-guess the situation.

“You can’t rely on being strong all day. You can’t rely on past races or anything like that. It is what it is. It’s definitely tough when you come up short in a situation like that, but that’s just what it is.”

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