Scott Dixon believes that more testing on Texas Motor Speedway’s revised layout would have allowed IndyCar enough time to set downforce goals that would have avoided the pack racing witnessed last Saturday.
Dixon, a four-time IndyCar champion and two-time winner at TMS, had been enjoying a long side-by-side duel with eventual winner Will Power of Team Penske, when Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato clipped the grass on the dogleg front straight and spun into the Chip Ganassi Racing #9. The ensuing crash eliminated Sato and Dixon and also involved a second Ganassi car of Max Chilton and the AJ Foyt Racing entry of Conor Daly.
Speaking from Le Mans, where he will be racing one of the Chip Ganassi Racing-run Ford GTs this weekend, Dixon told Motorsport.com: “We’ve seen it before: it’s such a fine line between creating great racing and being in a pack race again.
“Nobody really – except maybe the spectators – wanted to see [racing] how it turned out in Texas this year. Visually it was probably pretty exciting, but for the drivers it wasn’t that enjoyable. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a race with that many cars eliminated…”
As well as improving the drainage system, the changes at TMS since last year's IndyCar race included re-profiling Turns 1 and 2 to make them 20 feet wider, and lowering the banking at that end from 24 to 20 degrees. Some teams tested on this revised layout in April, but Dixon said that test didn’t give any clear indication of how the track would evolve, even aside from the very different temperature conditions.
“It’s difficult because there are always so many pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “The biggest thing everyone could have done with is more testing there.
“Unfortunately when we did the first tire test [on the revised track in April] not many people ran and teams sandbagged a lot so that made it difficult. In the part of the day when we ran 220mph average laps, the Penskes were running 213s, so it’s hard to get a feel of where the track’s gonna go.”
Dixon added that in 2018, IndyCar would have freer rein to make changes to downforce levels. Currently, with the teams running manufacturer aerokits, such changes tend to trigger political fights if either Chevrolet or Honda perceive they are about to be put at a disadvantage or lose an advantage.
“I think that’s why it’s going to be a lot better with the universal aerokit [in 2018],” said Dixon, “because then IndyCar is able to step in much easier and make adjustments. So that will be a positive. Right now, one change affects one manufacturer much more than the other.”