Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon almost had back-to-back victories on Sunday, but narrowly lost the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after a non-call involving Simon Pagenaud’s exit off pit lane. Pagenaud’s apparently early departure allowed him to sneak past Dixon, who explained after the race his opinion on the controversial situation.
Pagenaud was leaving the pits as Dixon was bearing down on him, and TV replays showed that Pagenaud’s No. 22 crossed the double yellow line dividing pit road from the racetrack earlier than allowed, which made him able to beat Dixon in the corner and assume a control of the race that he never relinquished. However, race officials did not penalize him and naturally, the No. 9 team saw things differently.
“When we got to Turn 1, it appeared that Simon turned a little early and crossed the line that you’re not meant to cross,” Dixon told media members including IndyCar Examiner at the post-event press conference. “But it is what it is, so second place today. Team Target did a hell of a job, and pit stops were clean, and I think we had really good pace. But personally, I think we should have won the race.”
He went on to explain that the rule in question – IndyCar Rule 126.96.36.199, which covers “lane usage” entering or exiting the pit area – is something that all the drivers have been briefed on.
“This one is always very clear and is always mentioned, and we have two drivers’ meetings a weekend, and it was clearly stated,” he said. “I think if you look at the PDF, it’s even in the PDF [document] that everybody gets. And I believe in the first [meeting] on Friday, it was asked several times about that.
“By all means [at] any time you could not put more than two wheels over the line, and that was my understanding,” Dixon continued. “I thought we were done with warnings and all this sort of wish-wash stuff and we’re going to stick to hard rules, but obviously that wasn’t the case today.”
That’s the second point of contention about the Long Beach situation. IndyCar’s new disciplinary guidelines were supposed to be stricter in 2016, including getting rid of warnings and moving directly to punishments, but after Race Control decided that Pagenaud had in fact committed a violation of the rule, they only issued a warning. Dixon also addressed his concern about that overall inconsistency.
“I thought we had outlawed warnings,” he explained. “Yes, a warning was clarified at some point, but this was the problem we had in the offseason with people getting warnings all the time, especially when you’re using it to your advantage when it’s the last pit stop sequence or anything like that.
“If you’re just going to get a warning every time you’re going to do it, that’s why this was discussed so deeply in the off-season, and why there was about 40 or 50 warning zones in the rule book removed,” he continued. “Obviously a few topics of conversation after this weekend. I don’t even know why we discussed the pit lane exit if we’re not going to stick to rules. Everybody else abided by it.”
Despite his dissatisfaction, Dixon showed on Sunday why he remains the gold standard for the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series. He handled a situation where he could have easily and understandably thrown a temper tantrum with composure, class and a clear articulation of his point of view.
He also wasn’t afraid to state that he disagreed, even as IndyCar continued to defend the stewards’ decision with repeated reminders during the press conference that a warning was an option in the rule book. For someone who could have been a two-time race winner and the current league leader, Dixon conducted himself as well as any driver in his position could have possibly behaved.
“I was pretty mad once I got out of the car,” he conceded, “even with the last sort of 15 laps waiting for a drive-through or at least a swap of positions. I was even a little mad at Simon after the race, but it’s not his fault. You’ve got to try to take advantage whenever you can, but he doesn’t make the rules or put the rules forward.
“Huge credit obviously to Simon. He raced a fantastic race, and it was a great win for him and the team,” Dixon concluded. “You know, I can’t be mad at him, so I’ll direct my anger some other direction.”
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