Scott Dixon expects the strategy employed by Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing in the first of this weekend’s IndyCar races at Road America will be copied in race two.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver maintained his unbeaten start to the season despite only qualifying 10th, leading Team Penske’s Will Power and rookie Alex Palou.
Power revealed the benefit of the undercut when he stopped on lap 12 to switch from Firestone’s softer alternate compound to a set of primary tires, and vaulted from 10th to third.
Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh’s Palou did the same, and he too moved forward from ninth to fourth.
Ganassi appeared to learn swiftly from such tactics and pulled Dixon in early at the second round of stops, where polesitter Josef Newgarden dropped out of contention after stalling in the pits.
Five-time series champion Dixon then found himself second to Power, and went on to win after a fumbled pitstop for Power.
Dixon said the benefit of the undercut “unexpected” and admitted to being “shocked” when his team radioed to say his battle with Power was for the race lead.
“I thought they must have the timing and scoring wrong, how did we jump five cars in that one pit stop exchange?” he said.
“The undercut was big today, so it will be interesting to see if a bunch of people jump on that.
“I think there will be a lot more people that are aggressive tomorrow with that strategy and that undercut because everybody can see how it works for them.”
Why Ganassi is excelling
Dixon explained that IndyCar teams are still in a process of learning how the aeroscreen-equipped cars’ revised weight distribution and centre of gravity impacts on the tires.
He feels Ganassi’s squad is responding better than its rivals to the highly compressed schedule of the current race weekends, with the first race starting less than five hours after first practice had ended.
PLUS: How Ganassi’s pursuit of perfection is paying off
“We didn’t particularly have great speed this morning or even in qualifying, the problem right now is there’s no time,” said Dixon.
“[We had] 1hr15min practice, where typically we would have a couple of hours in practice and those sessions would be split – you get some downtime, a bit of time to look at data.
“There’s no time to process any of that stuff right now, you’re definitely flying by the seat of your pants a little bit.
“These doubleheaders for the crew and the team are just brutal.”
Graham Rahal had been running second to Newgarden when he suffered refuelling problems at his first pitstop that dropped him back to 11th.
Rahal said he believed he had a car capable of scoring his first win since Detroit 2017, but conceded that Dixon is currently in a different league.
“Dixie is in a world of his own right now,” said Rahal.
“All of the bounces are certainly going his way, too.
“And that happens in racing. It happened for us in 2015, and we’re working on getting back in that position.”