Scott Dixon feels a combination of internal changes during the offseason at his Chip Ganassi team have hampered the defence of his IndyCar title this year.
A poor start to the season cost New Zealander Dixon dearly. He has recovered to win two of the last three races but lies fifth in the championship heading into the season-ending race at Fontana in California this weekend.
Even with double points on offer it looks all but impossible for Dixon to snare a fourth drivers championship.
He trails Will Power by 103 points and would need the Australian to have an absolute disaster, along with the other contenders ahead of him in Sunday's race (1pm, NZ time).
Realistically, it looks to be a three-way battle for the title between Power, team mate Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. In a clouded mathematical formula, the easy solution for Power is to finish sixth or better and he has a strong record at Fontana, which is a 250-lap race on a 2-mile oval.
That leaves Dixon mulling over what has gone wrong in a season where he was in the mix but too often lacking the speed to push for the podium.
He believes it was a mix of "little things" in a busy offseason, highlighted by switching engines from Honda to Chevrolet, that left his car slow out of the blocks.
"I think we started the season a little light in development," Dixon told Autosport.com.
"We had a lot of other projects as a team going on with the switch in engine manufacturer. The switch to Chevy was actually very smooth (but) the engine drives totally different to the Honda. I think we were maybe a little stuck in our ways in compromising the car for how the engine drives.
"We've been able to find more of a middle ground recently, which has definitely helped."
The distractions were varied though as the team took on new dimensions.
"Internally, we switched the sportscar team from BMW to Ford, which was a big deal. Especially with running Daytona and Sebring at the start of the year.
"It took a lot of effort to get that achieved, which took away a little bit from the IndyCar programme."
And the new driving lineup in the team had a knock-on effect.
The unexpected retirement of Dario Franchitti through injury came as the team expanded to four cars after running three in 2013. Brazilian veteran Tony Kanaan replaced Franchitti, and Ryan Briscoe came on board alongside regulars Dixon and Charlie Kimball.
Dixon felt little things snowballed but he believes the way things have settled down over the back end of the season points to a promising 2015 campaign.
"There's been a lot of little changes. I don't think there's been one thing significant to derail anything. It's just been lots of changes.
"It was a huge change with Kanaan coming into the team, [and] to figure out what he likes.
"Dario and I had a set pattern. It's just not like that right now, but we're getting closer to it.
"I think that will be big for next year."
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