Shame on those of us who saw Scott Dixon disappear into a cloud of dust on Lap 1 of the Portland Grand Prix and thought his race was over.
How foolish. How absurd. After all, even casual followers should know Dixon is IndyCar’s MacGyver — able to escape seemingly any situation, even when it looks dire.
Dixon somehow — improbably, incredibly — salvaged a fifth-place finish on Sunday when his day looked screwed from the start. Not only that, he took advantage of untimely cautions and misplayed strategy that affected fellow title contender Alexander Rossi, allowing Dixon to actually extend his lead by three points — to 29 overall — going into the season finale.
These are the kind of things that only seem to happen to Dixon. If you described such a scenario to someone in IndyCar and didn’t attach a name, everyone would know you were referring to the driver of the No. 9 car.
“We got super lucky today,” Dixon said. “You’ve got to take those days.”
Drivers predicted a sketchy start to the race all week, and that’s exactly what happened. As part of a multi-car wreck on Lap 1, Dixon was shoved into the dirt and felt a significant impact — though he couldn’t see what he hit.
“I felt like I wanted to cry,” Dixon said of sitting there while the dust cleared.
He didn’t expect his left front wheel would still be attached when his vision returned, but there it was. And as it turned out, Dixon had the presence of mind to pull the clutch while the crash was occurring — allowing him to keep the engine fired.
While others left on a hook, Dixon somehow put it in reverse, told the safety truck to move and drove away.
“I couldn’t believe the thing was still going,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a pretty lucky day from that point on.”
But that wasn’t immediately evident, because he was tagged for a speeding penalty midway through his comeback and saw all the gains erased.
“I thought on that point, we were definitely on the out,” he said. “Crazy, crazy day.”
Again, though, it’s foolish to count out Scott Dixon. So when his team stuck to a two-stop strategy (the same as race winner Takuma Sato) and Rossi made three, Dixon got the track position needed to extend his points lead.
“Huge day for us points-wise,” Dixon said, then added with no apparent sense of irony: “This might be our lucky day.”
Meanwhile, Rossi looked a bit stunned in the aftermath of his good day gone bad. He had a faster car than Dixon, but was done in by circumstances not of his own doing.
Rossi quickly dismissed the suggestion the damage was minimized by losing only three points to Dixon heading into Sonoma.
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” he said. “It was a terrible day.”