By Jenna Fryer
AP Auto Racing Writer
Scott Dixon has moved past the IndyCar no-call at Long Beach that he contends cost him a victory, though he still believes the situation can lead to changes in the series’ penalty system.
Simon Pagenaud won Sunday by holding off Dixon’s furious charge in the second half of the race. Dixon felt Pagenaud should not have ever been the race leader, though, because he broke a rule by driving over a line before he was allowed to exit pit lane following a stop.
Pagenaud got only a warning, and Dixon and his team felt strongly it warranted an actual penalty.
As he headed to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama for this weekend’s race, Dixon repeated in a telephone interview that warnings are meaningless. He said there was intense debate on the topic during the offseason and he thought warnings were going to be eliminated.
“I’ve said this every which way from Sunday, a warning is not a penalty. It shouldn’t even be classed in that way, in any shape or form,” he said. “If you are going to have infractions, then you need to get a penalty. But you need to know what the penalty is, and a warning is not a penalty. I’m hoping that does get clarified.”
After the race, IndyCar said Pagenaud’s infraction was subject to the discretion of the three stewards in race control. The penalty for a minimum infraction is a warning.
Dixon, the four-time and current IndyCar champion, did not shy away from arguing his position after the race but now hopes a dialogue leads to a change.
“I’ve just kind of moved, on to be honest. There’s nothing to be changed and in the heat of the moment, it can be pretty fiery,” Dixon said. “There’s nothing to gain at this point, a few little changes as to penalty guidelines or maybe how things should be decided. I think it put a bit of a magnifying glass on a moment that was memorable.”
IndyCar tightened the rules this week to address some of the issues that occurred in Long Beach. The series embedded “an electronic pit exit commit line” into the track surface to determine legal pit exits.
IndyCar could also position a dedicated official at the pit exit blend line to better police the rule.
“The addition of the electronic pit exit commit line uses technology to improve enforcement of the lane usage rule and creates a system to determine if an infraction has occurred,” said Jay Frye, series’ president of competition and operations.
Qualifying was also addressed after a timing and scoring failure last weekend led to incorrect lap times being recorded. Backup data decoders will now be used at the alternate start/finish lines. IndyCar also addressed adding an extra lap to the Fast Six round of qualifying at Long Beach by extending the session to a minimum of six minutes of guaranteed green-flag time. That’s up one minute from five, with the timing clock stopping on a red flag.
It’s a start, according to Dixon, who heads to Barber with six podium finishes in six starts on the road course. He’s never won at Barber, where Team Penske won the first three races, then Andretti Autosport and CFH Racing taking the last three.
Dixon is off to one of the strongest starts of his career with a win and a second-place finish in the first three races. He’s second in the standings behind Pagenaud, a far cry from this time last year, when a win at Long Beach pushed him from 14th to fourth in the standings. He had to claw out of an early hole to take the championship away from Juan Pablo Montoya on a tie-breaker in the season finale.
“I feel pretty good compared to past years,” Dixon said. “We were looking at points from last year … and at this point we feel pretty darn good.”