Detroit — Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay won their first races of the IndyCar season on Belle Isle this weekend, and Dixon, who is now tied for third in career wins, said the days when a driver could go on a hot streak in the series are in the past.
While they would like to win a lot more, of course, both veteran drivers, who have accomplished much in IndyCar, like the emerging parity.
“It keeps your head in it,” Hunter-Reay said during the annual victors’ breakfast in downtown Detroit on Monday.
“I mean, it keeps you in the game because you know no matter what you have a shot on any given weekend.”
At the halfway mark of the 2018 season, through eight races, two Team Penske drivers have two victories: Will Power, the series leader and 2014 champion, and Josef Newgarden, the defending champion.
But both also have had cold streaks.
Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time champion, Alexander Rossi, Dixon and Hunter-Reay each have one victory.
Meanwhile, Rossi is the only driver with two poles, while Bourdais, Newgarden, Power, Ed Carpenter, Robert Wickens and Marco Andretti each have one.
“I think right now with the competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it's just through the roof,” Dixon said following his 42nd win in 16 seasons Saturday on the Raceway on Belle Isle.
“If you look back a few years, you can sort of run off five or six victories in a season, and it seems those days are pretty much gone.”
At breakfast at the Hudson Café on Woodward Monday, before both drivers headed to Detroit Metro Airport and then to the Texas Motor Speedway later this week for their race on Saturday, Dixon said parity is good.
“One, it’s great for the fans. Two, what drives me is the competition, and it makes the competition really tough.
“Whether it’s the track or engine performance or whatever, sometimes you only have a few different scenarios where you were going to be sharp. Whereas, now, you have the possibility of winning every weekend, and so does the other 23 (drivers).
“I find it really enjoyable. The car is really fun to race right now.”
Hunter-Reay said the parity speaks to the quality of the cars, the drivers and the organization of the races.
“That’s what we love about the series,” he said. “You couldn’t guess, or bet, on who is going to win.
“For me, it’s great. I know every time I show up on race day, I have a shot.
“It’s a great formula that we have,” Hunter-Reay said of the IndyCar series. “The energy and buzz in the series is great.”
Power leads the series with 309 points, followed by Dixon (304), Rossi (298), Hunter-Reay (278) and Newgarden (207).
Some of the parity is created by rules governing how crews can work on the cars and the reduced downforce in the new design of the cars for 2018. Much more now depends on the drivers.
And while the drivers themselves and many fans wanted it that way, to almost reintroduce the human element to the sport, it came with the dividend of increased competitiveness.
If there is a downside, it is that the need to contain costs and create parity with regard to chassis, parts and equipment, reduces opportunities for drivers and teams to excel and create some separation from the pack.
“The opposite side is that when you had aero kits from a manufacturer and different parts, you could stylize the car more to your driving style," Dixon said.
“Now, we’ve kind of gone the other way. You change your driving style according to the car.
“So, it’s difficult. But it works.”