7/27/2018 2:17:57 PM
LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) Scott Dixon is in a good spot both mentally and in the IndyCar Series standings.
He took a family vacation to the Bahamas after winning the most recent race at Toronto on July 15 to extend the four-time series winner"s lead to 62 points over defending champion Josef Newgarden.
""It"s nice because it"s a change of speed, right?"" said Dixon, who turned 38 last Sunday. ""It"s great to sort of break away and have that change of pace, change your mindset and recharge your batteries and get back at it and start racing for the final five races.""
Dixon will be getting back into racing mode in Sunday"s Honda Indy 200 on a track where he"s had plenty of success. He won at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2007, "09, "11, 12 and "14. He"s had 11 top-10 finishes among his 13 races on the 13-turn, 90-lap, 2.258-mile course.
Sunday will mark Dixon"s 300th IndyCar start.
""I was told a couple of weeks ago Mid-Ohio would be my 300,"" he said. ""It"s fitting. It"s one of my favorite tracks.
""It"s got elevation change, it"s got fast corners, it"s got technical corners, it"s got big braking spots but especially when you get to qualifying the grip level is really high so really have to manhandle and hustle the tires around. It suits my style. I"ve always enjoyed it.""
Most of the time, anyway.
Last year, he had all sorts of problems and finished ninth, a result he called ""dreadful."" He entered the weekend with a three-point lead in the series, but Newgarden won at Mid-Ohio to overtake him atop the standings, and Dixon dropped to third behind Helio Castroneves.
Dixon never recovered and finished the season third behind Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.
""The strategy was off a little bit,"" Dixon said of the 2017 race. ""We had a top three or four car then we had two really bad pit stops. One was about 12 seconds longer than it should have been.""
There have been other blips but more success for Dixon in his 17-year relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon earned series titles in 2003, "08, "13 and "15. He also won the 2008 Indianapolis 500.
""I feel really fortunate and blessed and loved to do what I do and probably didn"t think I"d ever get to 300 races,"" Dixon said. ""I"d like to keep building on that number.""
Driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing car with a Honda engine, he has three wins this year and 44 in his Indy career, eight shy of tying Mario Andretti for second but well short of leader A.J. Foyt (67).
""For us it"s keeping our heads down and focusing on the next one for the last five races and keeping that mindset,"" Dixon said.
His rivals know they will need luck to deny Dixon a fifth series championship, which would leave him behind only Foyt"s seven.
""He"s had a great run this year,"" said Will Power, who trails Dixon by 93 points. ""He"s been very consistent, but if he has a little bit of a bad run here and we have a great run, it"s absolutely possible to catch him and win the championship.""
Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport had the fastest time during the two practice sessions on Friday, covering the course in 124.684 mph for Honda. Power, who"s won the pole the three times, ran 124.413 mph with his Chevy engine for Team Penske.
Graham Rahal, the 2015 winner from nearby New Albany, Ohio, was third-fastest (124.267 mph) in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. He was followed by Spencer Pigot"s Chevy (124.267 mph) for Ed Carpenter Racing and the Andretti Autosport Honda of Alexander Rossi (124.194 mph).
Qualifying is Saturday.