INSIDE THE TITLE SHOWDOWN
The Astor Cup’s final journey into the
arms of a slightly shocked Scott Dixon
began with a word that he probably
wouldn’t have wanted his kids to hear. It’s
Saturday afternoon at Sonoma, and the
Verizon IndyCar Series field is deep into the
second phase of qualifying. The Target Chip
Ganassi Racing ace knows that any realistic
scenario that ends with him winning the
championship must begin with him winning
the race, and he’s just been told by strategist
Chris Simmons that his final flying lap wasn’t
fast enough to put him in the Fast Six.
“You’re P9,” Simmons says over the
radio. Dixon’s initial, succinct response
is recorded above, and followed up with
an exasperated elaboration: “There was
dirt everywhere in [Turn] 6.”
A few minutes later, while Dixon is
relating his qualifying misfortune to a TV
reporter – “It wasn’t a piece of dirt, it was
a whole pile of dirt… I lost about four or
five tenths in that one section” – the final
battle for pole is taking a twist behind
him. One of the early-weekend stories
had been the unusual similarity in the
behavior of the new harder-compound
Firestones to the softer reds, which Josef
Newgarden underlines by shooting up to
pole and resetting the track record on a
set of stickered blacks.
Yet the CFH driver shows his hand too
early: Penske’s Will Power had already
completed his standard two runs and
thought he was finished for the day, but
when he and his team saw Newgarden’s
lap, they had just enough time to throw
on a set of new blacks themselves and go
faster still. Graham Rahal, unable to
respond, hits the radio button and muses
over this development with his pitwall.
“I guess we have an extra set of new
blacks for tomorrow, right?”
Fast-forward to the dummy grid
24 hours later, and of the six
championship contenders, it’s Rahal who
again dominates the radio chatter.
“You’re going to take it easy [at the
start], like your Dad would,” says team
manager Ricardo Nault.
“I don’t see Montoya pushing me too
hard, so I’ll just take my line,” Rahal responds.
“Proud of the Steak and Shake team for
everything they’ve done this season.”
Do drivers still get paid for sponsor
mentions when they’re over the radio?
Elsewhere, it’s a little quieter. Penske
driver Helio Castroneves receives a good
luck wish and a reminder that “we’ve got
a bit of work to do.” Over in the No. 2 car,
it’s Juan Pablo Montoya giving the pep
talk. “Let’s have a good race, keep it
clean, and we’ll be fine,” he says.
From the outside, the 2015 IndyCar Series season-finale played out like an 85-lap
soap opera. But if you eavesdropped on the team radios, it was even more dramatic.
WORDS Mark Glendenning MAIN IMAGE iStock/GNK82
“F***! There was
in Turn 6”
ON THE AIR: