Getty Images

29th Race of Champions to be held for first time in Middle East, Montoya defending winner

Leave a comment

This may be Super Bowl weekend in the U.S., but there’s a different kind of Super Bowl taking place for the first time ever in the Middle East.

The 29th Race of Champions takes place Friday and Saturday at King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

The ROC features drivers from a number of different motorsports series driving identical and equally prepared race cars on ractracks that are typically constructed inside stadiums.

Other stadiums that have played host to the event in recent years include Marlins Stadium in Miami last year; the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium in Beijing; London’s Wembley Stadium and the Stade de France in Paris, among several others.

Both IMSA and IndyCar will be well-represented in the 20-driver field. Among key drivers to keep an eye on:

  • The U.S. will be represented by defending Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay, participating in his fifth ROC.
  • Latin America will be represented by Helio Castroneves and defending ROC champion Juan Pablo Montoya, who won last year’s event in Miami.
  • Montoya is coming off a 10th-place finish in last weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, while Castroneves was part of the ninth-place finishing team, both for the new Acura Team Penske group.
  • This will be both Montoya’s and Castroneves’ second appearance in the ROC.
  • The United Kingdom will be represented by David Coulthard and Lando Norris.
  • Mexico will be represented by Memo Rojas and Abraham Calderon.
  • There’s even a driver from the Sim Racing world, who has done most of his racing on a computer than an actual race car, Rudy van Buren.

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

1 Comment

With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

Follow @JerryBonkowski