Dixon Has New Team At Home To Deal With
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
As a two-time IndyCar Series champion and the most recent Indianapolis 500 winner, Scott Dixon appears to be a man with few worlds to conquer.
So, how about fatherhood…and the joy of changing diapers? That life-altering experience awaits Scott and Emma Dixon, who are expecting their first child in late July.
“Both of us are excited,” said Dixon, 28. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. The timing might not be the best, though, because it’s during the season.”
Dixon enters his seventh IndyCar season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing at the top of his craft. With his driver’s title last year, Dixon became one of only two drivers to win multiple series championships (2003 and 2008). Dixon won a series record-tying six races in 2008. Dixon has won 10 of the last 26 series starts dating to the middle of 2007. And the New Zealander led a record-setting 899 laps during ‘08.
While those statistics speak to the evolution of Dixon as open-wheel ace, impending fatherhood signals the maturation of the lad who began racing cars competitively at 13 wearing blinders.
“He is all excited about being a dad,” Ron Dixon, a former dirt-track racer, said of his world-famous son. “Not bad for a kid who was never going to get married or have kids.”
Just when did Dixon make that declaration of bachelorhood?
“Well, I think that he’s (his dad) going back to days when I was maybe 16 or 17,” Dixon said during a recent teleconference. “And to be honest, even probably until I was 23, 24, 25 there was never anything even on the radar. So I think a young guy, especially in a racing sort of atmosphere, you have fun where you can. And as you mature and stuff and grow, those things change, and I guess your mindset changes.
“And for me for the last couple years, I’ve definitely been in the mindset of starting a family. And it’s just lucky that everything seemed to fit together at the right point with Emma, an amazing wife and a huge addition for me, and it changed me in many ways, too.”
Of course, the headline-making offseason change at Target Chip Ganassi Racing saw the addition of Dario Franchitti _ winner of the Indy 500 and IndyCar championship for Andretti Green Racing in 2007 _ in place of 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon. The Brit, who has moved to Panther Racing, also won the Indy 500 during his title run with AGR.
Dating to the first American Automobile Association-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 in 1911, the FIA-sanctioned Monaco Grand Prix in 1950 and the NASCAR-sanctioned Daytona 500 in 1959, no organization has paired the previous two winners of the sport’s driver championship _ and its respective crown jewel event _ on the same team.
“We’ve got the target on our back as such,” Dixon said, “and people are definitely going to have to chase us. It’s been excellent, just from having a new teammate, for me I thrive on that. It’s my eighth season with the team…seven in IndyCar and then I had a season before that in Champ Car. I’ve seen and been through a lot of teammates, and every time you get a new teammate you learn a lot of stuff. Dario is very technical, very, very good on road-courses and street courses, and he brings a lot to the team.
“As far as relationship goes, we’ve been great friends for many years. He was a guy I definitely looked up to when I came into the Champ Car Series in 2001 and 2002, and I’d like to say we’ve definitely grown on that. I’m looking forward to a whole season with him.”
Franchitti returns to open-wheel after winning four of 17 races during his championship run in 2007, following a winless 2006. Recall that Franchitti captured the title in dramatic fashion at the expense of Dixon. After trailing Dixon for nearly seven laps in the season-finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Franchitti completed the winning pass in Turn 4 of the last lap.
But the Scotman’s foray into NASCAR late in 2007 with Ganassi’s organization, then campaigning Dodges, ended abruptly when lack of sponsorship forced his Cup team to fold last summer. Franchitti made 10 Cup starts in ‘08, with a best finish of 22nd.
Dixon said the motivation figures to cut both ways for each high-profile driver and his Dallara/Honda. “Dario…I think he’s extremely motivated, just sort of the fact of what happened to him when he tried to go to NASCAR,” Dixon said. “So that was a tough deal for him, and I think he’s coming back to definitely prove a point. I’m going to try to drag myself on some of that motivation, as well.
“I’ve been lucky enough to stay with the team but I’ve had _ if you want to call it fresh blood _ quite often. So it’s been great for me to learn different areas. Every day you’re in the car, especially with the lack of testing, you’re learning something and learning a lot.”
Ganassi, whose IndyCar team notched its landmark 100th victory during 2008, famously has been quoted as saying he’d hire a Martian if he believed he/she/or it could “push the button” in one of his race cars.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to see these two guys as teammates,” Ganassi said. “I think they’ll bring out the best in each other. They are very similar drivers in that they are both, calm, cool and patient and are equally adept on road courses as they are on ovals. I know we have had some pretty good duos in our cars over the years like (Jimmy) Vasser and (Alex) Zanardi; Vasser and (Juan Pablo) Montoya and Dixon and (Dan) Wheldon, but I think this one has the chance to be real special.”
With the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg looming on April 5, Dixon is eager to add to these impressive IndyCar stats: 96 career starts, 16 victories, 14 poles, 48 top-five finishes and 68 top-10s.
“I’m still only 28, but that fire is still burning and burning strong,” Dixon said. “All I want to do at any point in time is be in a car and try and go fast for any series that I’m involved in, and moreso for the IndyCar stuff. Things help that, obviously _ the new people coming in the series, I think the competition this year is going to be probably at its highest ever, and a new teammate for sure, wanting to do well is motivation. I’m just thinking as strong and wanting to perform better than I did starting last year.”
As for being a dad, Dixon said he doesn’t have a preference for boy or girl. In fact, he and Emma have decided to wait until delivery to discover what color clothes they’ll need to buy for their first child.
“We have plenty more years to try to work out to see if we can get one, or the other,” Dixon said.