As hard as it may seem to believe, we’re already almost one-quarter of the way through the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season schedule.
That’s right, four races down, just 13 to go.
While we’ve seen youngsters Alex Palou, Colton Herta and now Pato O’Ward reach victory lane, one driver in particular has stood out above all others.
And who it is is not a surprise by any stretch.
In the same season he potentially could tie the legendary A.J. Foyt for most Indy car championships (seven), New Zealander Scott Dixon is off to the best start of every IndyCar driver in 2021, period.
Dixon won Saturday’s front half of the weekend doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway, his 51st career IndyCar win. Then on Sunday, he led a race-high 163 of 248 total laps around the 1.5-mile oval, before falling behind late in the race, yet still finished a very respectable fourth-place.
That’s a heck of a weekend in anybody’s race book.
Furthermore, Dixon is the only IndyCar driver who has not finished lower than fifth in any of the first four races this season. He was third in the 2021 season opener at Birmingham, fifth at St. Petersburg, won Saturday night at Texas and finished fourth in Sunday’s rodeo.
None of the other three winners to date this season come close to Dixon’s overall performance record thus far in 2021—with the possible exception of O’Ward:
Dixon: 3rd, 5th, 1st and 4th
Palou: 1st, 17th, 4th and 7th
Herta: 22nd, 1st, 22nd and 5th
O’Ward: 4th, 19th, 3rd and 1st
Is it any surprise that Dixon left Fort Worth Sunday night No. 1 in the points, the same place he was after Saturday night’s win.
After the first four races, Dixon leads the series with 153 points followed by O’Ward (131 points), Palou (127 points), Sunday runner-up Josef Newgarden (116 points) and Sunday third-place finisher Graham Rahal (107 points).
“It feels amazing to be in this position,” Dixon said. “You just never want it to end. … We'll keep our heads down. It's extremely tough.”
While his bid to tie Foyt for career championships is off to a great start, the 40-year-old Dixon won’t be able to pass Foyt’s other milestone mark this season. Foyt has 67 career IndyCar wins. Following Saturday, Dixon now has 51 wins, one behind tying Mario Andretti for No. 2 on the all-time wins list (52) but still needs 16 more triumphs to tie and 17 to overtake Foyt.
Still, Dixon has made the start to the 2021 campaign look easy – even though he quickly concedes it has been anything but:
“This season has been one of the toughest starts, I think, for a lot of us just with how tight the competition is.”
And it’s only going to get tighter if the first four races are any indication. That’s why it’s so important for Dixon to continue the way he’s begun.
“It was disappointing not to win today, after controlling much of the contest and leading well over half the total race distance,” said Rebecca Johnson, senior manager/director of production for Honda Performance Development. “But Honda already has three wins this year, and the top-five results for Graham (Rahal), Scott (Dixon) and Colton (Herta) keep both Dixon and Honda at the top of the championship standings.
“It’s been a busy start to the season, with four races in three weeks, so it will be good to have a week off to recharge, then we all head to Indianapolis and, of course, the ‘500’.”
WEEKEND NOTES: Fresh off his runner-up finish Saturday – made all the more remarkable because it was his first-ever career start on an oval track – Dixon’s New Zealand countryman, Scott McLaughlin, finished seventh Sunday. … Conor Daly had a scary episode when his car flipped Sunday after contact between several cars exiting Turn 4 and heading to the green flag to start the race on the opening lap. Daly was uninjured. "I’m not really sure,” Daly said when asked what happened. “I think in general in IndyCar we have too many start crashes. It’ looked fine… everyone accelerated. I had the best view; I was last. Then everyone is nose to tail. Can’t throw blame. I’ve never been upside down in an Indy car before. On our bingo card of terrible things to have happen to us, I don’t know what’s coming next.” … After four races in three consecutive weekends, the series has this coming weekend off. Racing resumes on May 15 with the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Follow Autoweek contributer Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski