Dixon climbs in standings with fifth-place finish

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Scott Dixon finished in fifth place at the Detroit Grand Prix Sunday in Detroit.

Detroit — Not bad, but ultimately not good enough for Scott Dixon.

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion — Dixon has won the title four times — had a good day Sunday, overcoming bumps and contact in Sunday’s Belle Isle Grand Prix, and nudged upward in the series standings.

But not as much as Dixon would like.

While Dixon was fifth on Belle Isle, points leader Simon Pagenaud was second to race winner Will Power.

Dixon did pass Helio Castroneves to take over second place in the series standings (277-271). But with Pagenaud at 357 — Sunday’s was his third runner-up finish in 2016 and his sixth podium finish in eight starts — there remains much work to do if Dixon wants to repeat last year’s success.

“We have to make strides here,” Dixon said. “Pagenaud has been doing a fantastic job and we have to start eating into it (the series lead).”

Dixon had plenty to overcome the course of Sunday’s rugged race. On Lap 2 he made contact with Castroneves.

“I don’t know if anybody caught it, I was complaining pretty hard on race control,” Dixon said. “Helio just forwarded left and smashed the side of our car and bent the front suspension.

“We were just trying to hold on.”

Later in the afternoon Dixon again made contact in the physical race when he and Juan Pablo Montoya met.

“I tried to give him a little room but realistically I don’t know where he was going there, and cut our rear tire,” Dixon said.

The incident forced a change to Dixon’s strategy for the remainder of the afternoon.

“That hurt our sequence there,” Dixon said.

But that wasn’t the end of Dixon’s bumpy afternoon.

“Ten or 15 (laps) to go, I actually hit the wall going through (Turn) 7,” Dixon said. “The car was pretty damaged today.”

With 10 more races on the schedule, there’s plenty of time for Dixon to make a sharper move in the standings.

But Dixon realizes time is running short.

And coming off Saturday’s disappointing 19th-place finish, Sunday’s finish was only partly gratifying.

“Ultimately not so bad considering the day, the weekend, we had,” Dixon said. “But we have to make strides here.”

Pagenaud took a firm grip on the series lead over Dixon by finishing 13th Saturday, and then following up with the second place Sunday. Both finishes placed him ahead of Dixon.

“I’ll take second, it’s a really good points day for us,” Pagenaud said. “Very happy for (owner) Roger (Penske) with a 1-2 finish (Will Power won Sunday’s race) — they put so much effort into making this event possible. … I’m really happy for the whole team.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com: @tkulfan