We may be in Scott Dixon’s world right now, but Road America is certainly a fun place to experience it.
The twisting turns of the Wisconsin road course through the hills proved to produce excitement, with a thrilling first couple of laps that left you wanting to see replays to figure out how that happened. From drivers making moves around the outside of each other in corners that you wouldn’t think possible, to even a three-wide maneuver that caused your jaw to drop.
The excitement carried through the day, as the field may have gotten spread out over the run as it usually does on road courses, but there was always a battle for position that caught your attention. These moments weren’t just the simple cut-dry passes either, as drivers setting each other up and picking their line via whether the next turn was left or right created a couple thrillers. Most people will remember the battle for the lead, with Dixon and Will Power trading lines through the back half of the course.
Combined with some catching storylines through the day – more on those later, it was a classic road course race with a bit of everything for the fans. If day two is anywhere close to this in thrilling nature, you can easily call a Road America doubleheader a success beyond expectations.
Contrary to domination we’ve seen in the past, Dixon wasn’t that man today, but kept himself in a position to pounce as he made up track position through the event to take advantage in the closing laps when others faltered. Team Penske easily and should have had the win, whether with Power or Josef Newgarden, but costly mistakes took the opportunity away.
Instead, Dixon got his third win in three events to start 2020. He has proven himself as one of the best in the series time again, but the chapter he is writing this year for the history book could be one that you may not experience like it for years to come.
Newgarden dominated early, and easily could have cruised to a victory with the speed he had underneath him. The strategy was playing in his favor, too, as he had put himself out to a nine-second advantage over the field. However, re-fueling issues on pit road put him mid-pack, and ultimately dealt a 14th at the checkered.
Power could have easily handed the Captain a win still, as he took over the top spot and seemed to have a good hold on the field over Dixon. However, another pit road miscue – stuck on the jack under the last stop, combined with the wrong gearing programmed in the car, saw him finish second instead.
Just imagine if they could have everything go right.
Alex Palou also capitalized through the issues of his competitors, while showing a lot of promise behind the wheel as a rookie in the series. Contending inside the top-five from the drop of the green to the checkered, he easily could be credited with some of the most thrilling moves of the race, including his late-race overtake on Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Meanwhile, Pato O’Ward did not create any friends, as he made contact with both Pagenaud and Daly in the late stages. Daly got the short end of the stick, as he ended up in the wall following their meeting.
While blame immediately went to the young star, a replay showed Daly coming down slightly into O’Ward to cause the contact. Furthermore, it’s a tight corner and anybody who tries to go two-wide through there is a risk, so you could chalk it up to a racing incident. As Daly said, “I had enough of a run to take a chance.”
It doesn’t mean you should not shy away from O’Ward’s driving, though, as the aggressive nature is no surprise. Recall how he was through the Road to Indy, with several moments that made you wonder but appreciate en route to success. Being aggressive can pay off if done right, but the afterthought leaving Road America may be more to the lather. You have to be careful in not making too many enemies.
Pagenaud, meanwhile, was more so a surprise to see him running in the back end of the top-10 all day long without showing much pace to equal that of his Penske counterparts. Where is the man we saw ready to conquer the world?
You also have to shake your head when looking at Alexander Rossi, as struggling all day to just try for a top-10 is not what you’d expect from someone thought to be a good title threat not long ago. Getting his season turned around quickly will be paramount, as a best finish of 15th thus far is not a good look.