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IndyCar champion Dixon: Indy Nxt should have a bigger speedway race

by Ida Wood

Photo: IndyCar / James Black

Scott Dixon believes IndyCar’s primary feeder series Indy Nxt should hold races on larger ovals to prepare drivers for the ones they will race on at the top level.

The 2023 IndyCar schedule features four oval tracks, consisting of a superspeedway (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), a high-banked intermediate speedway (Texas), an egg-shaped intermediate oval (Gateway) and one short track (Iowa Speedway).

Indy Nxt will support IndyCar at Iowa and Gateway this season for its only two oval races of the year. In previous years the centrepoint of the season had been the Indianapolis 500-supporting Freedom 100 race at IMS, but after 17 editions that was scrapped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of last weekend’s IndyCar race at Texas, Formula Scout asked Dixon if he would like to see more speedway races in Indy Nxt. The six-time IndyCar champion raced in Indy Nxt in 1999 and 2000, winning the title as a sophomore in a season which had races at Gateway, the Milwaukee Mile, and the Fontana and Michigan superspeedways.

“I do [want to see more],” replied Dixon. “Like, honestly, I came from an era where [in 1999] it was six and six. You did six ovals, six road courses, a season of 12 races in Indy Nxt. And the fields were [big].

“So having that feeling, I think of both [is good], but it’s got to be meaningful too. Sometimes when I’ve watched the Freedom 100 and they would be running four-wide around the IMS, I was like ‘yes, it’s great racing, great to watch, but it doesn’t really teach you anything for what the bigger category does’.

“So I think if it’s done in a productive way and a meaningful way, then I think it totally makes sense. Some of the circuits, like Gateway or Iowa, those I think are great circuits to understand oval racing on a short-track version and how the car moves around.

“And some of the bigger speedways, you’ve got to you pick the right ones because the budgets can be extremely tough and you don’t want just cars crashing out all the time. So it’s almost a car that’s in the low-grip situation and one that’s very difficult to race, I think it’s very, very important for the junior categories to have those races.”

Indy Nxt has not raced on a superspeedway since the 2019 Freedom 100. It last had three oval races in a season the year before that with Gateway, IMS and Iowa, and for six seasons hasn’t visited any other ovals beyond those three.

The one-mile Phoenix Raceway was used in 2016 and Milwaukee last appeared in 2015, with those two venues among the four tracks that made up the inaugural season of the USAC Mini-Indy series – Indy Nxt’s predecessor – in 1977.

The last time ovals made up half of the calendar was 2008, with eight being visited, and from 2002 to ’04 the series only raced on ovals. There were seven rounds in 2002, and 12 in each of the next two seasons.

Prior to that, the only time IndyCar’s primary feeder series had gone for an all-oval schedule was 1979.