Scott Dixon and his new race engineer Ross Bunnell have enjoyed huge success during the first nine races of their relationship at Chip Ganassi Racing. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and Bunnell, who competed in the No. 9 Honda program after learning his trade with Dale Coyne Racing are second in the championship as a result of the great consistency they have achieved.
“I think it’s been a pretty smooth transition with Ross so far,” Dixon told RACER. “The background is that in three years it went up and down a bit with three engineers for the 9 car, so to get that continuity is not always super easy. But he’s been really good; he’s just super motivated, really excited to dive into things, but he’s also confident in how he does things.
“I think the hardest part, which a lot of people don’t understand, is that the nine-car team is a bit difficult to drive. You have [Ganassi performance director and Dixon’s former race engineer] Chris Simmons there, you got Chip [Ganassi]you have [managing director and race strategist] Mike [Hull], and there are already a lot of confident people there. So when you start speaking, you better be confident in what your opinion is. And I think he’s done a really good job of understanding how to fit in there.
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After strutting to the right and left of the podium, the final milestone for the duo to hit is their first win, and they’re just days away from landing in one of Dixon’s favorite playgrounds – the streets of Toronto – to get the job. finished.
Dixon owns four of Ganassi’s eight wins on the Canadian street circuit, and as the defending winner of the Honda Indy Toronto event, takes to the 1.8-mile, 11-corner circuit with an excellent chance to repeat and welcome Bunnell to the victory lane in the process.
“Toronto was also our first win last year, so going back-to-back would obviously be huge,” said Dixon. “We were already close, but you always talk about the missed opportunities instead of the ones you get right. I feel like we showed a lot more, even more than we showed, because the car was really good.
“But we’re just getting over the top of the mountain, and then hopefully we can get going a bit. Every year in IndyCar is super tough, apart from [teammate and runaway championship leader] Alex [Palou], who did a great job. But it will come. Toronto, it’s been a good track for us in the past and I was impressed with the testing we had in Iowa. I’m much happier with the car than what we’ve had there so it’s a lot of progress and I like the direction we’re going.”
Dixon has rallied to win IndyCar titles after coming from a big championship deficit, making catching Palou with his 116-point lead seem less of an impossible task. The odds are certainly in favor of Palou, but Dixon is not ready to raise the white flag and surrender.
“I feel like I’ve seen this movie several times before and that’s the fun thing about IndyCar racing,” he said. “Even when they go to Le Mans and talk to people there, they all say, ‘I just love IndyCar racing because you never really know who the hell is going to win.’ I think that’s true for a lot of our seasons.
“Last year, Will [Power] I just had a great smooth year and did a really good job and did a great job, but I got through it where I won and then the next year came and it all went flat. So in that respect it’s nice because there are so many strong driver and team combinations now and even against that it’s really hard to predict who’s going to win. That’s why we all love it so much, because it’s so damn hard to get it right.
“I saw [Josef] Newgarden made a comment about Palou and how he hasn’t really had a problem this season, but some people just have those years where everything clicks. It’s also the timing of things. Suppose your engine blows up during practice, as opposed to qualifying or the race, and that almost feels like luck, because otherwise, if the timing wasn’t right, it could change throughout the year. And Palou’s group did a great job. It’s good to see them in their rhythm. But I’d say everyone else chasing them feels a little sloppy.
Story originally appeared on Racer