It’s not the years, but the mileage for Scott Dixon going into 250th start

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Scott Dixon’s IndyCar career is old.

Like 250 races old.

The New Zealander who now resides in Indianapolis, still only 34 before he turns 35 later this month, will make his 250th career start in the Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend, when he starts his 12th race at the Milwaukee Mile.

Dixon is the longest tenured driver with Chip Ganassi Racing at 14 seasons, and is in his 15th year competing in IndyCar (two seasons in CART).

But as famous archaeologist Henry Jones Jr. once said, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” that Dixon would rather brag about.

“When you see (that many) starts you definitely understand how long you’ve been around and kind of start to feel old, but the longevity is really cool as well,” Dixon told IndyCar.com.

“Motor racing is tough week-to-week opposed to foreseeing 10 years down the road and how it’s going to go. You hope for the best. Because of your passion and love for the sport, you want to be around a long time. I feel very lucky and privileged to be an Indy car driver.”

Lehigh Valley GP X Dixon
Scott Dixon drives to his first-career win in the 2001 Lehigh Valley Grand Prix.Getty Images

Dixon’s mileage and privilege began on March 11, 2001 in the Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey at Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Mexico.

Two races later, Dixon earned his first and only CART win in the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway. The 1-mile track hasn’t hosted a race of any kind since 2004.

That season Dixon raced for owner Bruce McCaw, but in 2002 started his relationship with Ganassi – fittingly, at the Milwaukee Mile – after McCaw’s team folded.

Dixon earned his first win for Ganassi in the 2003 IRL season opener at Homestead, which started the first of his three championship campaigns.

“It was lovely, I couldn’t believe it,” Dixon told ABC while still sitting in his cockpit.

Through the two series, Dixon has earned 37 wins, 84 podiums and 24 poles. Then there’s the three championships and of course, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 victory, which was win No. 13.

His latest win, No. 37, came in June in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. During the media day for the race, MotorSports Talk asked Dixon about the time immediately before his IndyCar career, when he spent two years competing in the Indy Lights series.

“For me it was that certain age, I was 18, 19,” Dixon said. “It was the next logical step in something that taught me the style of racing in America, aerodynamics. There was so much I learned in those two years. Without that in my career, I don’t think I would have progressed on.”

During those two years, Dixon competed in 24 races and won seven times while driving for Johansson Motorsports and PacWest Lights.

“Maybe I would have done something else, maybe I would have raced in Europe. I would’ve changed paths for sure. I think Indy Lights was massively competitive back then with over 25 cars on the grid and very good competition. Those were every big learning years for me for sure.”

Those learning years are still paying off for Dixon, who has two wins and is third in points as IndyCar visits Milwaukee on Sunday.

Milwaukee witnessed Dixon’s 19th career win in 2009. Through 11 races at the 1-mile track, Dixon has an average finish of 4.5.

“It has a lot of character and the track is definitely the toughest short track we go to – maybe even one of the toughest tracks that we’ve ever been to as a series, in my opinion,” Dixon said in a release. “I was fortunate enough to win there in 2009 and had some great battles there with some podiums.

“But I’ve also had some dreadful days there, crashing two cars in four laps once in practice and qualifying and then going home before the race. I’ve had many highs and lows there.”

At 34, Dixon still has plenty of mileage left in him. Mileage full of starts, highs and lows that could one day lead to career start No. 300, which Dixon says is now his goal.

“As long as you work hard and work on the idea of winning championships, victory is going to come,” Dixon told IndyCar.com. “We’ve been fairly decent this year and hopefully we can build on it and have a crack at the end for another championship.”

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Scott Dixon’s first IndyCar/CART race was on March 11, 2001.

Scott Dixon’s career is so old that….

  • “The Mexican” starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts was the No. 1 movie at the box office after two weeks in theaters.
  • The song “Stutter” by Joe Thomas feat. Mystikal was in its third of four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
  • In the NASCAR world, this was happening on the same day…                                                            
  • John Grisham’s “A Painted House” was in its third week as the No. 1 fiction book on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
  • Jon Stewart was in his third year of hosting the “The Daily Show.”
  • The iTunes software was only two months old. The first iPod wouldn’t be introduced for another six months.
  • The NCAA basketball tournament started two days later. Duke would win its third NCAA title.

 

Risi Competizione confirms multiple race absence from IMSA

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The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE will miss several upcoming IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, starting at Watkins Glen International next weekend.

The team has plans to return to the GT Le Mans class later this year, but hasn’t said when.

Risi’s absence was first indicated when IMSA released the Watkins Glen entry list earlier this week. It takes the sole Ferrari in class out of it for a handful of races; the pair of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella had a best finish of third so far this season.

“Following an extremely challenging first half of 2017, most recently at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I have decided to withdraw the Risi Competizione race team from part of the 2017 IMSA season in order to consolidate resources and to reflect on future racing programs,” Team Principal Giuseppe Risi said in a release.

Risi’s crash at Le Mans was with a separate 488 GTE chassis, not its full-season one.

But the IMSA full-season one sustained back-to-back hits at Long Beach and Circuit of The Americas. Then, the brand new car took a beating after Matthieu Vaxiviere came over on top of Pierre Kaffer’s No. 82 car going into a chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.

Kaffer was sore but OK and is in Road America this weekend for Pirelli World Challenge GT action, where he competes in the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS.

Rossi tops opening practice at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Alexander Rossi led the opening 45-minute practice session for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America, in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport.

The young American has always liked this track, as this was one of the tracks he had past experience on prior to his debut season in IndyCar.

At the 4.014-mile circuit, Rossi posted a best time of 1:43.3285, clear of three Team Penske Chevrolets of Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Scott Dixon completed the top five.

“It’s early; it’s a good way to start,” Rossi told IndyCar Radio after the session. “We’ve known we had a fast car. We just haven’t executed. We want our first win under our belt.”

Only the top 10 drivers down to Helio Castroneves in 10th were within one second, at 0.9964 of a second.

Eighth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay brought out an early end to the session with an off-course excursion, beached at Turn 14. He was OK but the session ended a minute or two early.

Robert Wickens, in his first official Verizon IndyCar Series session filling in for Mikhail Aleshin at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, was 20th at 1:45.6823. That was within a tenth of the returning Esteban Gutierrez at 1:45.6257, for Dale Coyne Racing.

Wickens’ teammate James Hinchcliffe was sixth in this session. Meanwhile Gutierrez’s teammate Ed Jones debuted a new Walter Payton tribute helmet; Payton was Dale Coyne’s former business partner and had his first IndyCar race as co-owner here. The late Chicago Bears running back was, of course, one of the best running backs in NFL history. Jones’ decision to wear a Bears helmet in Elkhart Lake, not far from Green Bay, is a brave one!

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owner Sam Schmidt updated Aleshin’s status when speaking to IndyCar Radio during the session.

“Supposedly, he’s on a flight. He got his visa from Paris. He’s supposed to land in Chicago tonight. We’ll see,” he said.

“Yeah up until yesterday morning we thought Mikhail would come in yesterday, and cruise normal fashion. Then his passport didn’t show up. We didn’t know if a day, two or three days. Called half a dozen guys. It was a bit of a scramble. We already had Robert’s seat, so that was convenient. Who could get here the quickest and get in the car. He hasn’t driven here in 10 years. But he’s getting up to speed quickly.”

Times are below.

Liberty planning evolution, not revolution, with future F1 calendars

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GENEVA, Switzerland – Formula 1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey says that the sport’s owner, Liberty Media, is focusing on evolution instead of revolution when it comes to forming race schedules in the coming years.

Liberty completed its takeover of F1 back in January, with Carey replacing Bernie Ecclestone at the helm of the sport.

Widespread changes have been expected as Liberty looks to increase F1’s footprint and reach in key markets such as the United States, with a number of new races expected as a result.

A first provisional calendar for the 2018 season was published on Monday, featuring the 21 races expected, up one from 2017 after the addition of France and Germany, and the loss of Malaysia.

When asked by NBC Sports if 2019 would be the first F1 calendar that Liberty could put its stamp on, Carey responded by saying he believed it was already clear on the 2018 schedule.

“I think that stamp exists today. I think we’re very proud of the calendar,” Carey said.

“We view this as our calendar. I might expect over time the calendar will evolve a little bit, but most of the races we have are multi-year.

“You’re not going have in any one year, you’re not going to have a dramatic change because most of the agreements are multi-year agreements.

“I think very much this is a calendar we feel good about, and I would say it’s our calendar. It’s not anybody else’s.”

Carey said that a total revamp of the calendar was not realistic given the contracts for races that are already in place, a well as important factors such as the August summer break that gives teams a chance to shut down for a couple of weeks during a busy season.

“There are realities to deals we have in place. Some races are in historical places that are important, and there’s a reason they’re historically there,” Carey said.

“They’re places and races we’re very proud of that want to be in a particular time of the year, and obviously that’s important for us if they’re there. So I think in saying we’re burdened with some construct we inherited, I don’t look at it that way.

“There’s a logic to this calendar. European races are largely clustered in this period from mid May to early September. You’ve got your traditional August break. I think for us, our focus, I said in Montreal, we feeling good about the calendar.

“I think we believe we can continue to improve it, but I think there will be an evolution, not a re-doing. I think our focus is really making the races everything they can be.

“I think this calendar issue probably gets more weight and focus and people try to make more out of it than it is. I think our biggest priority is making these events, we have 21 events we have this year, everything they can and should and we hope they be.”

Alonso, Vandoorne get grid drops in Baku after power unit changes

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McLaren Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne are set to start this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the last row of the grid after the FIA confirmed that both will receive a 15-place drop from their qualifying position.

Alonso and Vandoorne are yet to score a single point through the opening seven races of the season amid ongoing difficulties for engine partner Honda, whose power unit has lacked both performance and reliability so far this season.

Alonso’s struggles continued in practice in Baku on Friday as he was forced to park up at the side of the track during FP2 with an apparent engine issue, adding to McLaren’s ongoing plight.

The Spaniard said in McLaren’s race preview that he expected to take a grid penalty for changing a number of parts on his power unit, with the drop being officially confirmed by the FIA on Friday.

Both Alonso and Vandoorne will take a 15-place grid drop from their final qualifying position on Friday, meaning they are likely to start from the final row of the grid.

The only other driver with a grid penalty in Baku is Carlos Sainz Jr., who will drop three places as punishment for causing a collision at the start of the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago.