Scott Dixon trying to quench 6-year thirst for milk at Indy

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Since winning his first Indianapolis 500 in 2008, Scott Dixon has come close on multiple occasions to becoming a two-time winner of the world’s greatest race.

He finished a disappointing 14th in last year’s ‘500’, but from 2009 to 2012, the New Zealander collected a sixth, two fifths, and a runner-up. He also led 199 laps in that time span.

However, the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion doesn’t think the Indianapolis Motor Speedway owes him one for his many near-misses on Indy win No. 2.

“It’s one of the toughest races in the world and that’s why everybody comes here to try and defeat it,” Dixon said today at IMS. “We were lucky enough to win here in ’08 and obviously, [teammate Tony Kanaan won] last year. Whether there’s any more, we’ll have to wait and see.

“But you only have to lead one lap here and that’s the last one.”

Dixon and Kanaan are two of the sport’s biggest stars on one of the sport’s biggest teams, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. However, both men enter Indy flying under the radar; Dixon’s had an up-and-down start to his title defense (one podium in four races), while Kanaan’s best finish so far is a sixth in March’s season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.

Then in qualifying last weekend, the ‘Bullseye Boys’ missed out on the Fast Nine shootout for the pole position. They were able to get it together on the second day, but they’ll have some work to do on Sunday as Dixon rolls off 11th and Kanaan starts 16th.

“We didn’t do too well in qualifying, but we got to know and understand why that happened, and on the second day of qualifying, I think we ended up with the third-fastest speed,” Dixon said.

“The race cars have generally been very good, and we seemed to look pretty strong on Monday, our last session. I think we’re in a good situation, but in this place, you never really know.”

Another challenge that Dixon must contend with is the draft-heavy style of racing that has taken hold at Indianapolis in recent years. Last year’s 68 lead changes (a new race record) made for a wild show, and Dixon expects a similar outing on Sunday.

“I think it’s the style of this car and the unfortunate part is that it’s pack racing at Indy, which I don’t think is a good situation,” he said. “Last year was a bit funny too because nobody wanted to lead and everyone was trying to save fuel – so it was great for the show and great for the fans.

“This year, we’ll probably see the same thing. We may see five or six cars try to split away from the main pack just to get some distance but it depends on who you’re working with and hopefully you’re in that situation. And hopefully, all four of our [Chip Ganassi Racing] cars can get up there, get in line, and try to get away a little bit.”

NBCSN will air LIVE Indianapolis 500 Carb Day coverage tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET. The broadcast will also be streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).