Dixon: 50 Indy car wins milestone is huge, not just for me
Scott Dixon admitted that reaching a half-century of victories in Indy car racing, as he did today at World Wide Technology Raceway, was something that he wouldn’t have foreseen when he moved to the USA back in 1999.
Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s five-time champion was in reflective mood after scoring his fourth victory of the season, a triumph that puts him into a huge 117-point lead in the championship standings, on a day when his closest rival, Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Josef Newgarden, could salvage only 11th.
“I never thought this was ever possible,” said Dixon whose 50 wins have been accumulated in 329 races, and 49 of them have been for Ganassi. “I was very lucky and very fortunate to race in a lot of junior categories, made it to IndyCar.
“The first win [for PacWest Racing] came in a strange way at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in a fuel-mileage race. That was definitely a shock. Then obviously the milestone that we reached today is huge – not for just me.
“It's amazing what this team has been able to achieve with championships, Indy 500s. As always, I feel very fortunate to be able to work with this group of people. They're the ones that make it possible.
“Yeah, 50 is a great number. I'd like to think there's 50 more, but that might be pretty tough! We'll keep our head down and we'd love to definitely get a lot more wins here in the next few years. Yeah, we're in the business of winning, so that's what we got to do.
“It means a lot for me, means a lot for my family a lot for all the people that enabled me to get here, all the investors from New Zealand that made this possible many moons ago. This is what it's all about.”
Today’s victory was Ganassi’s 113th in Indy car racing, and moves Dixon to just two wins behind Mario Andretti and 17 behind A.J. Foyt in the series’ all-time winners list.
The New Zealander, who turned 40 two months ago, said: “I don't feel any different to when I was 20. I think the hangovers get a little worse, which is one big difference. I try to stay clear of those a little more these days.
“I'm so lucky to work with the team that I do. They inspire me every day – their competitiveness. Chip, Mike [Hull, managing director], everybody involved at this team – they never lift [the throttle], they never want to stop. That's what keeps me going, keeps me driving as hard as I can.
“I think it just shows the depth of the team. The race at Road America, when we weren't having a great day, Felix [Rosenqvist, teammate] was able to pull off a win. We definitely went through a lot of changes in the off-season. Just the process, we definitely tried to learn from a lot of our mistakes, not just last year but years previous to that, as well.
"The depth of the team got a lot stronger with consuming a lot of the Ford GT program, which was good. We were just running really thin. Now it's nice to have that to lean on, not just myself but sort of Felix and Marcus [Ericsson] as well.
“It's tough competition. These teams are the best in the business. The drivers right now are so tight and so close, you got to try and maximize on everything. That's what it really came down to for us, is trying first of all to do the obvious things right, eliminate the silly stuff, which we still fell into a little bit at Road America, race two, running out of fuel. That's where you have to be careful because you can lose a lot of points.
“The year started great. We've had great finishes. Four wins in a season, a few seconds. I think Road America is the only race we finished out of the top five, which is tough to do in this championship right now. We just have to keep our head down and working as hard as at the start of the season.”
Dixon was “kind of cruising” at Gateway until Sato’s late challenge
Dixon, whose crew got the #9 Ganassi-Honda refueled and on new tires in time to beat erstwhile leader O’Ward out of the pits on the final stop, said he had been stalking the Arrow McLaren SP driver and saving fuel throughout the previous stint. He admitted that when he realized the Mexican couldn’t keep up with him once their order was reverse, he felt there wasn’t much competition until suddenly Sato pulled up in his mirrors.
“Super proud of the team,” said Dixon. “The whole PNC Bank #9 crew were phenomenal and that's what made it a little bit easier for me. It was definitely quite hard to pass on track.
“We were kind of cruising a little bit there until we saw Sato coming and had to get going… Today he was super fast, man. It was crazy to kind of listen to the radio. They were giving me the times. I could see on my steering wheel the splits closing pretty quickly. [RLL] did a great job of trying to use the overcut, some clean air, try and jump a lot of people.
“Looks like maybe he didn't have a clean last stop. If he had a clean last stop, it was definitely going to be a very tight race for the win… These races are so tough. Sato is definitely one of the most fierce competitors I think when you get into a situation like that. He takes his chances, and he makes that quite apparent.
“Pato did a fantastic job. We definitely had a little more pace than them. They were quite quick for the first five or 10 laps of the stints, then we were just sitting in the leanest mixture, trying to kind of make fuel sitting in behind there. That's always going to help in the stop, whether it's a full caution yellow pitstop where everybody is bunched up or if it's a green flag one.
"I'm very fortunate and lucky to work with the best team in the business. They definitely showed it on the pit stops today.
“I was kind of thinking there wasn't much competition once we made that pass because I could see in the mirror that Pato couldn't stay very close. We were kind of just cruising. I didn't know that Sato wasn't on an overcut scenario, how close that was going to be.
"The team came on saying, ‘Hey, you got to push, you got to push.’ Maybe he had a bit of a bad stop on that last one, which definitely helped us in that scenario. But he was super quick.”
Scott Dixon in 2001, his first season in CART Indy car racing. He would finish eighth in the points race for PacWest that year.
O’Ward puzzled by Dixon’s “massive difference of pace”
What time and channel is the IndyCar race today?