Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scott Dixon vs the Penske Juggernaut

It was expected that the Penske Brigade will certainly be taking the top spot. With 4 fast cars it would be hard for anyone to break through. How could they loose? It was not an option. Especially with the Captain himself not being around, There's no greater sign of loyalty than doing right by your boss behind his back. Helio Castroneves, Joseph Newgarden, Will Power, and reigning Champion Simon Pagenaud each wanted to be the one to bring victory home to the Captain.

While Scott Dixon the Championship leader could have been counted on to possibly get on the podium or even spring an upset - which he did, in this race it's really not what he did, but how he did it

Dixon defied the odds and won, not through strategy as he often does, but in this case it was just a case of out driving everyone else, especially the Penske cars that were heavy favorites. He was ruthless, daring, fast, and deliberate. Nearly all the spots he made up to get to the lead were acquired on track. Despite a Joseph Newgarden hot on his pursuit in the last stint Dixon did not waver. He made no mistakes. 

The Penske crew have to be wondering to themselves what happened, how was he able to get past all four of them to get to the lead. Does he simply have more fight in him?

It's rather an intangible factor, a subconscious programming the Penske drivers have in mind that Dixon seized upon. In the Penske camp they're jostling to be the one who at the end of the season Roger Penske will decide to back for the title run. Only then will the Captain throw his weight behind the intramural winner.They will fight just to the limit, to keep themselves from wrecking out of a race, and stay in the points hunt. But even then as proved last year, and previous years, even when someone is mathematically eliminated, they're usually still allowed to go for wins if they do not take out the title challenger....which has always made us scratch our head.

This strategy of self preservation makes Penske's fantastic four team vulnerable to Scott Dixon. Having been at his Ganassi team for the 15th year in a row, he is the team. He is clearly the #1 option until he proves otherwise. His team owner, mechanics and strategists have thrown their full weight behind him since the first race of the season. His bold moves in the race were taken with the team's unanimous approval. Armed with the knowledge that the Penske cars are still fighting for #1 status it opened the door for him to romp through their defense for the win.

As other examples you might notice that when Pagenaud and Newgarden raced for Sam Schmidt and Ed Carpenter respectively, they were more daring and decisive, because at those teams they were the undisputed #1's.

The mindset of a driver fighting for #1 status is rather different than from one already established as the only resort.