Dixon: Ganassi found “two big things” to improve IndyCar form

In a season in which Team Penske-Chevrolet landed nine wins, Ganassi took only four – notwithstanding the fact that one came in the Indianapolis 500. And while Dixon, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson finished third, fifth and sixth in the final points table, none of them entered the 2022 finale with a truly realistic shot at the title.

For Dixon, who won the street races in Toronto and Nashville, Ganassi’s weak spot was clear.

“I think the outlier was definitely road courses, where we had inconsistency either between the cars or in general,” he said. “None of us got a pole, and I would say right now the road course kind of tire combination is probably Alex’s specialty, he’s extremely good at it, and to see him not get a pole I think means definitely something that was missing.

“There were definitely some instances where we made pretty heavy mistakes, I think, on the #9 car side – just not being in the right configuration or doing silly things that shouldn’t have been done. But I think there was two pretty big things in the off-season that we saw that we were probably doing wrong and then also not emphasizing enough on. I hope that once we get to the first few rounds of road courses that that understanding of what we’re missing definitely helps.

“I think outside of that, our other packages have been pretty strong. You keep working at it in the off-season is where most of the preparation is done for understanding kind of your weaknesses, and that was definitely a big outlier for us.”

Given the lack of IndyCar testing on temporary courses, it seems strange that teams tend not to complain about trying to find strong streetcourse setups for the Firestone compounds, but developing setups around Firestone’s rubber for roadcourses – where IndyCar can test – has been a struggle for many.

“Yeah, there’s some outliers that we were doing pretty wrong,” said Dixon, “so I think that would emphasize more of that circuit type, if you look at the consistency or the inconsistency for us. The tire, too, is quite sensitive now. It plays to some driving styles a little bit easier than others, so that’s kind of another window you’ve got to unlock a little bit.

“It’s hard to explain and get into it too deep without kind of giving some things away!”

One of the keys to Penske’s strong form could be attributed to a big leap by Chevrolet in the previous off-season, but Dixon is convinced that Honda Performance Development can retaliate.

“I know one thing is that Honda will never lie down or give up. That’s for sure. Sometimes getting beat really does help fire that. I think across the board, as a partner, we didn’t do maybe as good a job as we could have, but I know even talking to David Salters [HPD president] several times in the off-season and at Daytona, they’re flat out, man.

“The difficult part now is that it’s a very mature engine. It’s been around for a very long time. To find some big gains can be extremely tough. But I think, again, it’s like any of the process that we go through, say at the Indy 500: it’s never one, two, three, four or five big things, it’s always hundreds of small details that you’ve got to get right.

“ I know they won’t stop working. It’s going to be good.”

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