Dixon seeks first title repeat as IndyCar season opens


Miami (AFP)

New Zealand's Scott Dixon chases his sixth IndyCar season crown and his first back-to-back titles when the 2019 campaign begins at this weekend's IndyCar St. Petersburg Grand Prix.

The 38-year-old has never won over the 1.8-mile, 14-turn downtown street course in the Florida feature, which serves as the IndyCar season opener for the 10th time.

"We've never gone back-to-back so that's the goal this season," Dixon said. "The hardest part is always trying to defend it. Goal number one is to try and capture that sixth championship, go back-to-back."

The 17-race season could see Dixon add to a legacy that includes season championships in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 and last year. He has 44 IndyCar career wins in all, the biggest of them being the 2008 Indianapolis 500.

Dixon ranks third on the career race win list to Mario Andretti's 52 and the record 67 of A.J. Foyt, whose record seven season crowns makes him the only IndyCar driver ahead of Dixon.

"Five doesn't sound all that much like four but it definitely just felt like I put myself into a different category," Dixon said. "You've got to be careful not falling into complacency. You've got to try and keep it fresh and interesting."

The most recent IndyCar racer with consecutive season crowns was Scotsman Dario Franchitti, who took three in a row from 2009-2011 for Chip Ganassi Racing, also Dixon's car owner since 2002.

Dixon held off a late charge by American Alexander Rossi to win the title 678-621, a runner-up finish at the season-finale in Sonoma enough to clinch the crown, with Australia's Will Power -- the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion -- third.

"What we need is more consistency," Power said. "Definitely was disappointed not to be a legitimate contender at the last race. You want to be able to fight for that championship.

"I think the team has done a lot of development over the off-season. I think we found some really good stuff. Definitely looking forward to getting out there."

Among the other contenders were Americans Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden and Frenchmen Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais, who seeks a third consecutive race victory at St. Pete.

Spanish F1 legend Fernando Alonso, who led 27 laps last year in his Indy 500 debut, will be back for the 103rd running of the US oval classic on May 26.