Dixon seeks fast start for 2017 INDYCAR season

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He may be known as “Captain Comeback” in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but Scott Dixon is hoping for a strong start in 2017 as he aims to hoist his fifth Astor Cup presented each year to the series champion.

The 36-year-old New Zealander’s most two most recent titles have come by late-season rallies, with 2015 proving to be perhaps the most memorable. Entering the season finale at Sonoma Raceway trailing two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya by 47 points, Dixon embarked on a charge for the ages. He won the race to clinch his fourth series title on a tiebreaker for most wins in the season.

Dixon, the active leader with 40 Indy car wins which is also fourth all-time, has come out on top after several title scraps with various Team Penske drivers over the years and doesn’t see that changing anytime soon. He believes a stout start in 2017 would go a long way to making the year that much more pleasurable.

“Team Penske is always going to be a tough battle,” Dixon said. “I find like any championship that we're fighting for, one of those drivers is in the thick of it as well.

“Starting strong is a goal that we obviously try to do, but has not really been our M.O. for quite a few years. I think if we could start the season strong, it would definitely make the rest of it a lot more enjoyable.”

With the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner’s team, Chip Ganassi Racing, switching to Honda power and aero for this season, Dixon isn’t discounting the thought of the obstacles ahead when the season kicks off March 10-12 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I think for us, maybe the tracks that we have coming up first are going to be sort of eye openers for a few reasons with the change of manufacturer, just I think with street courses and maybe some short ovals,” said Dixon, entering his 17th season of Indy car competition.

“They could be our tougher ones, yeah.”

With the Honda’s unmatched track record of Indianapolis 500 wins – 11 of the last 13 races, including the historic 100th running won last year by rookie Alexander Rossi – there is some encouragement for Dixon, whose 2008 win at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” came with Honda.

“Well, I'd like to think that, outside of '16, we always have a pretty good shot at Indy,” Dixon said. “(2016) was very frustrating in the fact that we just really didn't have the speed on the outside. But yeah, I think with what we saw, especially out of all the Hondas last year, they were very, very strong at Pocono and the Indy 500.

“I'm sure that came into partial thoughts of making the decision for the switch. Maybe, I don't know. But there's two things that we set goals for, and that's to win the championship and win the Indianapolis 500.

“I hope that's true.”

All 21 full-season cars are scheduled to participate in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ two-day open test Feb. 10-11 at Phoenix Raceway. Cars will be on track from 3-6 and 8-11 p.m. ET each day, with a video stream of testing available on IndyCar.com. Fans can attend the Feb. 11 practices for free, with the day also including an all-driver autograph session between sessions.

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