Scott Dixon’s title defenses begin in Daytona

Getty Images
1 Comment

In two months, Scott Dixon’s “day job” will resume, as he starts off what he’ll hope will be a pursuit of a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship and third in a four-year period dating to 2013.

In three weeks, however, he’s got another target to defend: his win along with Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar teammate Tony Kanaan and CGR NASCAR aces Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in the team’s No. 02 Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype.

It’s the first race of what’s usually three or four cameo appearances by Dixon in a Ganassi sports car over the course of the season. The difference this year is that Daytona will mark the sendoff for the team’s successful DP program, and Dixon wants to give it one last hurrah.

“I think the goal is obviously to go back and defend the overall, which could be the last hurrah for the DP car or I think it is, or whatever iteration they bring next,” Dixon told MotorSportsTalk during the Chevrolet Champions’ event in Sterling Heights, Mich. last month.

“That’s the main goal, we go there obviously to win.”

Dixon joined Ganassi’s IndyCar operation in mid-2002 and has been a part of the team’s sports car program off-and-on since 2004. He’s been part of Rolex 24 overall wins in 2006 and 2015, both times with his IndyCar and NASCAR teammates (the 2006 win was with the late Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears).

“I’ve been doing it for a long time now. I think ’04 was my first season with Ganassi at Daytona and I’m hoping that we can continue,” he said. “The 01 has had quite a streak there and the 02, we’ve only had a couple, so it’d be nice to add to that.”

Rumors abound Dixon could be part of the new Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT program as the year progresses, at perhaps any or all of the endurance classics in Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.

It’s not to say those opportunities run secondary to his IndyCar commitments, but Dixon is of course firmly focused on the task at hand there too.

Some comments he said in the last week or so about aero kits hurting the quality of the racing made the rounds in the press (via FOX Sports’ Bruce Martin here).

That aside, he’s waiting and seeing how the latest new INDYCAR managerial structure will take shape – Jay Frye replaces the departed Derrick Walker as INDYCAR president of competition and operations, having moved up from his role as chief revenue officer.

“A lot of them are hard to know until you give it time,” Dixon explained. “Jay Frye has obviously been there for a little while and understands the sport. He’s seen many things throughout his career. As long as he works well with Mark and everybody else on board, I think it’s a great fit.”

Dixon also continues to push INDYCAR to further enhance its safety program; safety updates from the sanctioning body were announced in late December, as well as an increase of additional horsepower for road and street courses on the push-to-pass option.

“Safety updates are something we always welcome,” he said. “Push-to-pass, I think, will help some. I don’t know if it needs to go to other areas where if someone pushes from behind and locks out the guy in front or something.

“We’ll have to see where that goes. But obviously adding another 30 percent of power, I guess, is going to be a good gain, I think.”

Dixon, wife Emma and their two daughters Poppy and Tilly enjoyed a relaxing winter holiday… once Scott’s hectic post-Sonoma travel schedule wound down.

He competed in Petit Le Mans in Ganassi’s DP, tested at Road America in his IndyCar and also completed a triathlon with Kanaan in Miami. And then he started banking even more frequent flier miles.

“I had a little bit of a drive with the GT car, which was fun, but mostly travel – a trip to New Zealand and a little bit of stuff for Leadfoot Festival going on down in New Zealand, which I’m going to go back for in February for that event,” Dixon said.

“I’ve had some dinners, lunch here today (Detroit), dinner tonight in Houston and then I leave for England tomorrow, seeing the family for Christmas and then hopefully Edinburgh for New Year, maybe with Dario (Franchitti).”

Dixon, who has a sharp, wicked sense of humor that comes out at times but really comes out the more you get to know him, said he and Franchitti are still enjoying life when they get the opportunity to hang out outside the track.

“We’re kind of bouncing around a little bit,” he said. “But we’re a little more mature these days, I’d like to think.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.