Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Brace for Unpredictable May at Indianapolis

·6 min read
scott dixon ganassi
Dixon, CGR Brace for Unpredictable May at IndyJAMES J BLACK
  • When it comes to winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—either the mid-May Grand Prix on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course, or the Indianapolis 500, the current Chip Ganassi Racing crew has somewhat mixed results.

  • Marcus Ericsson, of course, is the defending champion of the Indy 500.

  • Only Scott Dixon has won the GMR Grand Prix among his CGR teammates.

The current roster of Chip Ganassi Racing—six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou, Marcus Armstrong and part-time ovals-only driver Takuma Sato—has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The month of May at Indianapolis is obviously one that is the highlight of the season for all of CGR’s drivers, as well as their rivals on teams like Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and others.

But when it comes to actually winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—either the mid-May Grand Prix on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course, or the Memorial Day weekend Indianapolis 500 classic on the famous 2.5-mile oval, the current CGR crew has somewhat mixed results.

scott dixon ganassi
Marcus Ericsson returns to Indianapolis this month with an Indy 500 victory on his record.Penske Entertainment/Chris Jones

Sato comes to CGR this season as a two-time Indy 500 champion, winning one time each for Andretti Autosport (2017) and the other time for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2020).

Dixon, meanwhile, has one career Indy 500 triumph, plus four other podium finishes—but the New Zealand native also has endured several heartbreaking finishes that, if fate had been different, should have seen him end up in victory lane.

Ericsson, of course, is the defending champion of the Indy 500, emerging from a pack late in last year’s race to take a swig from the coveted victor’s bottle of milk.

Palou has made three starts in the 500 and just barely missed winning in 2021, finishing a close runner-up to Helio Castroneves, who captured a record-tying fourth victory in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

While all five drivers are unquestionably looking ahead to this year’s Indy 500 on May 28, there’s another bit of business that is more immediate, namely, Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).

Only Dixon has won the GP among his CGR teammates, which was part of three road course races held at IMS in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only other current CGR driver that has earned an Indy GP podium was Palou in the 2021 GMR Grand Prix.

Ericsson finished fourth in last year’s GMR Grand Prix, and then went on to win the Indy 500 two weeks later.

Now we prepare for Saturday’s GP, with Ericsson leading the IndyCar point standings, Palou is third (nine points back), Dixon is eighth (32 points out of first) and Armstrong is a distant 17th. Sato is not competing in Saturday’s race, as he is only driving the five ovals on the schedule for CGR, so he’s preparing for what he hopes could be a third Indy 500 win in a couple of weeks.

Dixon will make history when the green flag falls to start Saturday’s race, as it will be his 350th start for Team Ganassi, the most of any driver and any one team in IndyCar history. While Dixon may still be thinking about some of the shortfalls he’s had in the 500, his mindset is to win Saturday and use the momentum generated to potentially finally earn that elusive second win in the 500.

scott dixon ganassi
Takuma Sato is a two-time Indy 500 winner.Penske Entertainment/Chris Jones

“I’m definitely looking forward to the Indy GP,” the driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda said. “It's a great way to kick off the Month of May entering a different kind of pressure with the 500. It's a fun, family-friendly weekend and I'm looking forward to getting on track. We've had fast cars all year and hopefully we get a great qualifying, have a great race and get after it."

While he’s had just one win in both the GP and the 500, Dixon also has four podiums in the Grand Prix, third-most in track history. He is also one of just two drivers to complete all laps of the 13 GPs to date (1,071 laps) and has recorded top-10 finishes in 11 of those 13 races.

While watching Dixon on Saturday, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for Palou and Ericsson. The Spanish-born Palou has one podium (2021) in seven GP starts at Indy, while the Swedish-born Ericsson’s best finish was fourth in last year’s spring GP.

"I'm really excited for the GMR Grand Prix,” said Ericsson, driver of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda. “The Month of May has officially started and to come as the defending Indianapolis 500 champions and the championship leader in the NTT IndyCar Series feels amazing."

Weather indeed Saturday is a concern, with forecasts calling for thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Palou, meanwhile, was the fastest of all four CGR drivers in Friday’s two practice sessions, third-fastest of all 27 drivers in the field in the first practice and No. 1 atop the timing chart for the second practice.

"I'm very happy with how we started this year,” said Palou, driver of the No. 10 American Legion Honda. “Obviously, there are places you want to improve and things you can do better. But the team has been outstanding and we've always been there fighting.

“It's the Month of May, the best month for our IndyCar community. We're all excited and we've been strong at both the Indy road course and the Indianapolis 500."

As for Armstrong, the fellow New Zealand countryman of Dixon has shown signs of promise in his rookie season. He is driving only road and street courses (Sato will fill in for him on the five ovals) and finished eighth at Long Beach and 11th in both the season opener in St. Petersburg and two weeks ago in Alabama. He sits 17th in the standings, and even though he missed the oval race at Texas, he still is the leading points-getter among rookies on the IndyCar circuit this season.

And even though he’s never raced on either the road course or oval at IMS, Armstrong had a strong outing in the second practice Friday, clocking in with the fourth-fastest speed.

"(The Indy road course is) a new track for me, but it's one of those more European-style circuits,” the driver of the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda said. “The weather is looking quite unpredictable, which will be fun. I haven't driven one of these cars in the wet before obviously, nor have I driven the Firestone wet tire.

“But I feel like I have done quite a bit of wet driving before, racing a lot in Italy and the U.K., which is almost always seemingly wet. It's going to be fun if it does rain, but hoping the visibility will be a bit better than last year. I think that we had a good race at Barber. If we can sort out our qualifying and start further up, we can do some good things and that's what we're targeting."

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski