INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Scott Dixon of New Zealandi, driver of the #9 Andretti Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Chevrolet, waves during a parade ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at  on May 28, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Scott Dixon’s balancing family, driver roles helps make him great

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The accolades that immediately roll off the tongue when you mention Scott Dixon’s name are his racing accomplishments: 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, and fourth all-time on the Indy car win list with 40, trailing only A.J. Foyt (67), Mario Andretti (52) and Michael Andretti (42).

So what’s the accolade you don’t necessarily put alongside it, but you should? His dedication and devotion as a family man, in the dual role of husband to wife Emma and full-time dad to daughters Poppy and Tilly. He and Emma celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary today.

The Dixons, who have made Indianapolis their permanent residence in recent years but also spent a fair bit of time of St. Petersburg helping the Wheldon family, are, if not renowned as the first family of the current IndyCar grid, they’re close.

Talking about family, rather than racing, doesn’t come easily to Dixon – who as typically as he gets on with the job behind the wheel, also does so at home. He does this as he prepares for his 17th season in IndyCar, 16th with Chip Ganassi Racing and for the first time, without Target sponsorship.

“I feel very lucky with my job, but also the time we get with family,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “We have extremely long offseasons.

“So by their nature, that gives you that time to be, for me, a dad … I can fully be there to take the kids to school, maybe crash their lunches, or take them to gymnastics or tennis. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”

Dixon’s schedule isn’t usually as travel heavy for work purposes over the IndyCar offseason as, for example, Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Charlie Kimball, who spends much of his time traveling the country and world for Novo Nordisk appearances.

The extent of Dixon’s offseason travel is usually for sports car races – he competes in one of Ganassi’s Ford GTs in the endurance races as third driver to his past IndyCar teammate Ryan Briscoe and sports car veteran Richard Westbrook.

“Both Emma and I travel a lot but we also get time to be with the kids, because having a normal job can be from 8 to 5. Others have it even worse… if you’re a doctor, nurse or whatever, the hours are extremely long,” Dixon said.

He puts his full focus on his day job first, but he’s never let that impede on the duties at home.

“For me, I love racing… I love the challenge of it, and that’s important,” he said. “But there’s family and then racing. The other promotional stuff, media requirements, things like that, are probably the harder part for me. Talking about the racing is easier.”

One of the races he was talking about this offseason was the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, a race Dixon has gotten more interested over the years to go along with his interest growing up in watching the Australian Supercars classic, the Bathurst 1000 (now the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000).

“It’s kind of like their Indianapolis 500,” Dixon explained. “I watched the 1000 every year back in the days, going back to watching Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and those legends. I’ve been there twice maybe to watch the race? But I was only 14 or 15 at the time.

“That place has fascinated me. The track is so cool. A lot of the guys that are racing there now, I’ve competed against in the junior categories and now do most of the V8 races. It’s a national thing… all the mates I went to school with. It’d be watch Bathurst, have a BBQ, getting ready for watching. Hopefully one day there’s one day I can race there, man.”

If the opportunity arises, Dixon would jump at the chance to race at Bathurst, with the 12-hour as a “warm-up act” to any appearance in the 1000.

“Thinking about it, the whole idea would be to do the 12-hour before Supercars and the 1000. Timing-wise, it’s possible to do both, but contractually it might be harder. I’d love to do it though; I’ve put fingers out to try to see what the possibilities are.”

Mike Hull, Dixon’s longtime race strategist and managing director at Chip Ganassi Racing, also worked to explain what makes Dixon so good from the dual family/driver role.

“You never realize what’s in front of you while you have it,” Hull told NBC Sports. “When it’s Scott Dixon we’re talking about, if he’s not the best ever, he’s one of the best.

“People don’t realize what he’s done as a driver. When you think about the iterations of cars he’s raced. It’s not the same as the CART ones that changed, or the IRL ones that changed. He’s been continually winning in a different kind of IndyCar for 15 years. He doesn’t give up trying to understand himself better on a driver. He’s like a chameleon. He’s always trying to suit the car, driver and track… some drivers are so singularly focused in their driving style, and they have to step around their egos.

“But that’s why he’s won as many races as he has… 40 of them. Other guys have raced cars at a different time. Scott has been blessed with good teammates. What Scott does is work so hard, but so unselfishly with his teammates to make each other better.

“He’s worked so hard to achieve what he has unselfishly. You’ll get the most from him every day.”

NHRA: Leah Pritchett sets new quickest national elapsed time record

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Photo: Don Schumacher Racing
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Pomona Winternationals winner Leah Pritchett added to her incredible start to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, one she came in with high hopes with anyway, with a slightly bigger accomplishment:

She set a new national elapsed time record for a 1,000-foot distance in NHRA history.

Pritchett, who drives the Don Schumacher Racing-entered, Todd Okuhara-tuned Papa John’s Top Fuel dragster, ran a 3.658-second pass at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on Friday outside Phoenix during the first day of qualifying for this weekend’s Arizona Nationals. The speed was 329.34 mph.

Incidentally, both Pritchett and Courtney Force set unofficial best times in Top Fuel and Funny Car testing, also at Wild Horse Pass, earlier this month.

You could barely put a piece of cheese between Pritchett’s two times; her time at the test was 3.654 seconds, but because that’s a test it is not an official mark.

The previous official record in competition was a 3.671-second pass, which Steve Torrence set July 31, 2016 at Sonoma.

“To be behind the wheel of this machine that is constantly putting out time and time again fast numbers and quick numbers is, to be honest, a little bit difficult to comprehend,” Pritchett said, via NHRA.com. “It’s everything that dreams are made of. It’s almost too good to be true, but it’s not.”

For good measure, Pritchett’s teammate Tony Schumacher also eclipsed Torrence’s old mark with a side-by-side run to second at 3.667 seconds, and 323 mph and change in the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster.

Force led the Funny Car charts on the first day of qualifying, while Jason Line led Pro Stock. Both drivers drive Chevrolets.

Lest Force’s day be overshadowed, she set a record of her own. Force broke the track’s elapsed time and speed records during the opening session of qualifying for Sunday’s NHRA Arizona Nationals with a pass of 3.838 seconds at 332.67 mph.

Force lost to Matt Hagan in the Pomona finals while Line beat his KB Racing teammate, Greg Anderson, for the Pomona win.

Butterball, Andretti Autosport extension is all gravy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, practices during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Andretti Autosport and Butterball, a U.S.-based provider of turkey and poultry products, announced a new expansion of their partnership. The newly revamped agreement will see Butterball branding on all four Andretti Autosport entries in 2017.

“Butterball has been a great partner since 2014 and I’m really excited to have them on board again this year,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay. “They were with me when I won the Indianapolis 500 which was a really special moment for everyone involved. Hopefully we can bring them back into victory lane this year, not only at Indy, but throughout the season as well.”

The machines of Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato will feature branding just below the front suspension components. Per the announcement, the placement has created a new nickname for the assembly: “the Butterball Wishbone.”

“Butterball is extremely excited about our sponsorship with Andretti Autosport in 2017,” said Butterball CEO and President Kerry Doughty. “With the addition of the new Butterball Wishbone Sponsorship on all Andretti Autosport Indy cars for the 2017 season, we are expanding the tremendously successful relationship that began with Michael and Ryan in 2014 when we won the Indianapolis 500 in our first season.”

Butterball’s tenure with Andretti Autosport dates back to May 2014, shortly before Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed victory at the Indianapolis 500. Branding has been featured on Hunter-Reay No. 28 entry ever since.

Newgarden completes busy day in Detroit

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Photo: IndyCar
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Josef Newgarden’s media prowess and charisma was again in full display on Thursday during a series promotional efforts for June’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Specifically, Newgarden was in town for Detroit Grand Prix night at that night’s Pistons-Hornets NBA game.

The day began with Newgarden visiting a handful of Detroit news media outlets, where his most notable venture involved duking it out with Pistons mascot Hooper.

The day continued with Newgarden exploring more of the city, and getting in touch with its rock ‘n roll history.

That, Newgarden ventured to The Palace of Auburn Hills to the big promotional event of day, Detroit Grand Prix night. There, Newgarden was greeted with his own Detroit Pistons jersey and even tried a couple of half-court shots at halftime. However, he did not make any, making it less likely he’ll pursue a basketball career when he decides to hang up his helmet.

For an additional recap Detroit Grand Prix night, visit The Chevrolet’s Detroit Grand Prix twitter @detroitgp.

Entry lists revealed for MRTI Spring Training in Miami

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Kyle Kaiser in Miami, 2015. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The first real good, if not final, looks at the season to come in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires come with next week’s Spring Training, which sees four total days of action at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for all three rungs of the ladder.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will run February 27 on Homestead-Miami’s 1.5-mile oval and March 2 on the 2.21-mile road course. Meanwhile the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series will run solely on the road course over two back-to-back days, February 28 and March 1.

Indy Lights’ field seems closest to being finalized from this group, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 still have some gaps to fill.

In one other bit, Mazda will announce the teams of competition for its Soul Red-liveried drivers this year, all of whom won Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarships for their next step up this year. That’s why Aaron Telitz (Indy Lights), Anthony Martin (Pro Mazda) and Oliver Askew (USF2000) teams are listed as TBAs.

Anyway, quick notes:

Indy Lights (14 cars

All drivers on the Indy Lights entry list have been officially announced, and as noted, Telitz’s team is the only significant TBA of note. Car numbers are revealed for Zachary Claman De Melo and Matheus Leist at Carlin of 13 and 26 respectively, with the known in advance.

In terms of team breakdown, it’s four each at Carlin and Andretti Autosport (with Colton Herta’s No. 98 car an Andretti Steinbrenner Racing entry), Juncos Racing and Belardi Auto Racing each with two official cars and Team Pelfrey the lone one-car entry.

Of the 14 drivers, the field is split exactly in half between seven veterans and seven rookies.

Questions from here are whether one or two more cars not at this test will join the grid at St. Petersburg and push the number back up. Since the debut of the Dallara IL-15 Mazda in 2015, the St. Pete weekend has had 13 cars in 2015 and 16 cars last year, with this one falling in the middle.

Pro Mazda (6 cars)

In what’s very much a survive-and-advance season for Pro Mazda in the final year with its existing car, a small batch of cars come from Team Pelfrey, World Speed Motorsports and the team TBA for Anthony Martin for this test.

Within a 20-to-30-plus, multiple-class series of racing, six cars for one class wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. But six on their own for an independent series is certainly an issue. The number simply has to grow by St. Petersburg to at least eight at a bare minimum, the low-water mark last year, with 10 a significant step forward at this rate (the series had 12 cars at St. Petersburg last year).

USF2000 (22 cars)

Quite by contrast, the new Tatuus USF-17 premieres in USF2000 with 22 cars at this test and the potential of more cars by St. Petersburg (the series had 26 starters last year with two additional withdrawals).

Six returning drivers join 12 rookies and four TBAs on this list, all split among 10 teams. Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay, initially announced as driving for Benik in 2017, is listed in a third Newman Wachs Racing entry for this test.