Dixon Can Add To His Legacy In 2021 Indy 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 30 2021

Six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon will lead the field to green at the 500 on Sunday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – Every time Scott Dixon straps into an Indy car, the record book beckons.

Dixon will start the 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500 from pole position Sunday afternoon in search of his second victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

But wait, there’s more. If Dixon rolls into Victory Circle after 200-laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he will have tied open-wheel icon Mario Andretti for second on the all-time wins list at 52.

“That would be amazing,” said Dixon, 40, who counts an Indy 500 victory in 2008 among his pelts. “I try not to think about those things too much, but that would be an amazing situation to be a part of. I’m not sure Mario would agree. But that would be fantastic. For me, that would be one of the greatest things ever.”

Dixon quietly has worked his way through an excellent Month of May, during which he topped the speed chart on Fast Friday (May 21), the first round of qualifications a week ago Saturday and during the Firestone Fast Nine Shootout last Sunday that decided pole position. Dixon’s four-lap/10-mile average of 231.685 mph secured his fourth Indy 500 pole (2008, 2015, 2017) and tied him with Rex Mays, A.J. Foyt Jr. and Helio Castroneves for the second-most poles in event history.

Dixon’s speed also was enough to hold off 21-year-old rising NTT IndyCar Series star Colton Herta, who recalled watching Dixon win the 2008 race on TV while breakfasting on Cheerios as an 8-year-old in California.

Asked when he last felt as confident going into an Indy 500, Dixon smiled and said, “2008 probably. We’ve had great months here. I felt last year was very good, too. We’ve had a lot of years where we’ve been confident. But again, it doesn’t guarantee you anything. It’s nice to go in with confidence into the race but still, you’ve got to win the race. So. Yeah.”

Green flag is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. (EDT). Live coverage starts at 11 a.m. on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

The six-time/reigning series champion (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2020), Dixon is the oldest of the five drivers who have won events this season _ his 20th with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Scott Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing team have been the big story this month of May.

Ganassi, a former INDYCAR driver who started his team in 1990, once famously said he would hire a Martian to drive one of his race cars, if he thought said alien could “push the button.” Fortunately for “The Chipster” Dixon boarded a plane from Auckland, New Zealand, bound for the USA two decades ago and worked his way into Ganassi’s organization as a Championship Auto Racing Teams part-timer in 2002. Dixon clinched his first championship in 2003 with three wins and five poles as a CGR full-timer…and here we are.

The list of drivers to have come and gone since Dixon joined CGR as a full-timer in 2003 includes Dan Wheldon, Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan, who has returned to the team this season for the series’ four oval races.

Winning races, Dixon said, will help any driver extend his shelf life with Ganassi. “He likes winners. Personally, I admire him,” Dixon said. “I like driving for him. I think he has such an amazing group of people around him. I probably look at more that I wouldn’t like to race against him, so that’s a big help. I think we also have personalities that don’t really clash _ which I’ve seen other teammates have personalities that have clashed a lot.

“Chip has been a huge part of my life and a dear friend. Obviously, team-owner, team boss and I like what he does _ a lot of great things.”

Dixon also credited his family life with wife Emma _ a former Welsh and British 800-meter track champion _ and their three children with extending his longevity. 

“I still love doing what I do,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Honda. “I think the passion is probably at the forefront of it. I’m competitive but the two most competitive people I know are probably Chip and my wife. That push is definitely at the forefront. Again, it comes back a lot to how I got here and the people that helped me, too. I want to make it worthwhile for all of us. There’s lots of things that come into that.”

Spoken like the true “understated superstar” Dixon is typically labelled by the nation’s dedicated motor racing media.  

“Ahhh, definitely doesn’t bother me,” Dixon said. “I love flying under the radar. I love doing what I do. I feel very lucky and appreciative to do what I do and I get to work with some very good partners, and obviously with Chip for 20-plus years now. I always prefer the results to talk for themselves and the passion for me is the racing. And I guess some of it’s just my personality. Nobody owes me anything. I love doing what I do. I feel very lucky and I hope it continues for a while.”

Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion in his second tour with CGR, confirmed that Dixon’s low-profile persona is genuine.

“He likes that. That’s part of his game,” said Kanaan, who will start Sunday’s race fifth in the No. 48 Honda. “He doesn’t want the attention, and it’s funny because we hang around all the time. We’ll go to a restaurant and somebody comes to me and hands him the phone to take a picture with me and doesn’t even realize who he was. And he laughs, like, ‘That was cool!’ But that’s what he wants. It’s part of his personality as well.

Elder statesman Tony Kanaan will drive the No. 48 car for Chip Ganassi Racing at Indy.

“You look at me, you look at Helio _ we’re very well-known and we get the biggest cheers. He’s here to win races. Trust me, when he got out of the car Sunday (after qualifying on-pole) you could see it in his eyes. He was like YEAH!”

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who finished second to Dixon during the COVID-19-impacted 2020 season by 16 points, is impressed by Dixon’s longevity and productivity.

“Someone like Dixon, he’s made INDYCAR his life’s work,” said Newgarden, 30, a two-time series champion. “That’s a big deal when you see a man like Dixon who’s done that. Obviously, it’s been very positive for the sport. He’s got staying power, right? He’s had his good and bad years but he’s had a great end to his career, certainly the last four or five years. I think his staying power has been pretty impressive. Some people don’t have that but he’s been one of the best at it. Definitely when you think about people like Foyt and Andretti, you think about the long careers.

“And there’s guys that are fast and have elements of, the package, let’s say. But they don’t have everything. A guy like Scott, he has everything. Maybe you want to pull a little piece out and say he’s not the best at this or he’s not the best at that but when you look at the whole package, he’s got it all. That’s the difference from someone who’s really good and flashy and entertaining and can win a race, but never win a championship. You have to consistently perform every single time you show up. And someone like Scott has done that, whether it’s a win or a top-five.”

Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, said that in addition to God-given talent, Dixon is more-than-savvy enough to put himself into the right place at the right time.

“He’s relentless,” Kanaan said. “I know the ‘Secrets of Scott’ _ how competitive he is in anything he does. If it’s ping-pong, you might win a couple games and he’s not good at it…he comes back and few weeks later he’s mastered the game. He hates losing. I think it’s remarkable how he can push himself to strive to succeed every time. The more that he wins, the more he wants to win. But not in an unhealthy way.

“He has something that…I mean, I tried to be Scott Dixon, believe me, for three years of my life when I was his teammate. How’d that work out? I’m not. You just go back and you try to be Tony Kanaan.”

T.K. added Scott also is a devoted family man. “He would do anything for his family, and I think that’s pretty cool,” Kanaan said. “I don’t want to get too personal because it’s his life, but he will bend backwards to do whatever Emma and his kids want.”

Kanaan was asked if he had ever seen Dixon lose his cool. “Yeah, when he’s hungry,” Kanaan said. “You don’t leave Scott Dixon hungry. But in a race car, I don’t think I have. It’s just crazy.” 

However, Dixon remains politely peeved by his second-place Indy 500 finish to Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing under caution last Aug. 23. Spencer Pigot’s crash in Turn 4 on Lap 195 brought out a yellow as Sato and Dixon were locked in a one-on-one duel. Pigot crashed as the leaders had started Lap 196 of the scheduled 200.

Scott Dixon will start the 2021 Indianapolis 500 as the leader of the pack.

Dixon made it clear during his post-race comments sanctioning body INDYCAR should have red-flagged the proceedings to a halt to clean Pigot’s debris field, and set up one last restart and dash to the checkered flag.

“Sometimes people like to say that this place picks its winners,” Dixon said, “and I’ve been second many times under caution, I think three times under caution. It’s frustrating but again, this place owes me nothing. It’s a privilege to race here. But strategy-wise when it comes to things like that, you’ve really got to throw everything out the window.”

That type of incident, Dixon said, is what makes trying to win the Indy 500 so compelling.

“The Indy 500, just to get everything perfectly right in a two-and-a-half, three-and-a-half-hour period is almost impossible, and that’s why it is so tough,” Dixon said. “It’s the biggest race in the world and the most difficult race in the world. I feel very lucky and privileged to have won it once and be on a short list of less than 70 people, but that same instant also drives you into a deeper will to want to win it again.

“The Indy 500 is still the marquee event. Would I trade some championships for 500 wins? Maybe. I feel like they’re so different that they don’t really relate in a lot of ways, too. I feel like there’s a lot of emphasis on INDYCAR championships. But the Indy 500 is the Indy 500.”

And wait, there’s more. During Friday’s post-Carb Day news conference, retired IMS historian Donald Davidson informed Dixon the last time the Official Indy 500 Pace Car was a convertible _ as is the case with the 2021 mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray hardtop convertible _ was in “Dixie’s” winning year of 2008.

Davidson added that by leading 111 laps during last year’s Indy 500, Dixon moved from ninth to third in all-time laps-led. During the course of the race, Dixon passed “Legends of the Brickyard” Bill Vukovich, Parnelli Jones, Emerson FIttipaldi, Wilbur Shaw, Foyt and Andretti to reach third. Davidson said if Dixon leads 82 laps Sunday, he will pass Ralph De Palma (612) in second and Al Unser (644) for P1.

“You could very easily leave here on Sunday as the all-time lap leader. I think that is an astonishing accomplishment,” Davidson said.

“I only want to lead one lap,” Dixon said, “and that’s 200.”


Final qualifying results/starting lineup for the 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.3837 (231.685 mph)
2. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.4034 (231.655)
3. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.5000 (231.511)
4. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.5047 (231.504)
5. (48) Tony Kanaan-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8229 (231.032)
6. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1039 (230.616)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1827 (230.499)
8. (06) Helio Castroneves-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:36.2804 (230.355)
9. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.3054 (230.318)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8132 (231.046)
11. (18) Ed Jones, Dallara-Honda, 2:35.8148 (231.044)
12. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevy, 2:35.9360 (230.864)
13. (51) Pietro Fittipaldi-(R), Dallara-Honda, 2:35.9481 (230.846)
14. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.0168 (230.744)
15. (30) Takuma Sato-(W), Dallara-Honda, 2:36.0417 (230.708)
16. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1395 (230.563)
17. (3) Scott McLaughlin-(R), Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.1435 (230.557)
18. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.1680 (230.521)
19. (47) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.2314 (230.427)
20. (60) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.3922 (230.191)
21. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4735 (230.071)
22. (1) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.5354 (229.980)
23. (45) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.5563 (229.949)
24. (86) Juan Pablo Montoya-(W), Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.5961 (229.891)
25. (98) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.6089 (229.872)
26. (22) Simon Pagenaud-(W), Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6732 (229.778)
27. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6964 (229.744)
28. (25) Stefan Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.7166 (229.714)
29. (59) Max Chilton, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9195 (229.417)
30. (4) Dalton Kellett, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.6717 (228.323)
31. (24) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.0982 (229.156)
32. (12) Will Power-(W), Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.2905 (228.876)
33. (16) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.6504 (228.353)

NTT IndyCar Series point standings: 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 176; 2, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 163; 3, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 148; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 146; 5, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 137; 6, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing, 135; 7, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 130; 8, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 123; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 118; 10, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 117.

Note _ All cars use the fourth generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR-12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.

(W) _Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner

(R) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year candidate


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 30 2021
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