INDYCAR: What would Scott Dixon have to gain leaving Chip Ganassi Racing for McLaren?

Dixon after his most recent win, two races ago at Texas. Photo: IndyCar
3 Comments

It’s kind of hard to tell where Chip Ganassi ends and Scott Dixon begins.

The duo have been joined at the hip since the fourth race of the 2002 season, having celebrated and shared four Verizon IndyCar Series championships – and are on track to earn a fifth this season – along with 42 (of Dixon’s 43 career) IndyCar wins, including the 2008 Indianapolis 500 (and two other runner-up finishes in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing).

Next up for Ganassi and Dixon: They’ll celebrate their 275th IndyCar start together this weekend at the Iowa Corn Indy 300 (2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

More than once, the pair has been accidentally called Chip Dixon and Scott Ganassi, they’re T-H-A-T close.

So why would Dixon, who turns 38 on July 22 and still has at least another five or more good years of racing success left in him, want to walk away from all that?

Racing fans in Dixon’s native New Zealand have been clamoring over several recent reports that their fellow Kiwi, who is in the final season of his current contract with Ganassi, may be pulling up stakes at the end of the year.

Those same reports – all speculative in nature and based upon little factual or concrete information – would have you believe that Dixon will join McLaren when it makes its long-anticipated entry into IndyCar racing next season.

Some reports even claim McLaren has already offered Dixon a mega-million dollar, three-year deal far larger than what he potentially would get from Ganassi.

That means, the reports would also have you believe, that Dixon is likely headed to McLaren’s IndyCar venture with Fernando Alonso, who competed in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

Pairing Dixon and Alonso would be a match made in motorsports heaven, with one of the most prolific racers in Formula 1 annals (two Formula 1 driver’s championships, plus he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month) teamed with the third-most winningest driver in IndyCar history behind only A.J. Foyt (67 wins) and Mario Andretti (52 wins).

While the lure of winning a championship – or two or three – with McLaren could be enticing to Dixon, logically it makes little sense at this point.

Even with its name and racing pedigree in other forms of racing, it’s highly unlikely that McLaren will be an immediate hit right out of the box in IndyCar. Instead, it would likely take at least two or three seasons – maybe more – for McLaren to compete head-to-head with the likes of CGR, Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, among others.

Sure, bringing Dixon and his experience and wealth of knowledge would be a huge asset for McLaren, but really, what does the New Zealand native have to gain personally?

By the time McLaren would potentially be up to speed competitively, Dixon would also potentially be ready to retire from IndyCar racing.

Would it be worth sacrificing perhaps as many as 10 or more career wins – which would put him past Mario Andretti’s 52 career wins in an Indy car for second place on the all-time list – and another championship or two or even more with Team Ganassi, just to take a chance that he could MAYBE build a championship team around the McLaren banner?

To his credit, Dixon has both been truthful and forthcoming about the McLaren rumors. Talking with Autoweek nearly two weeks ago, he had this to say:

“We constantly talk to other people, but it’s not in a situation where we are shopping around or looking to move,” Dixon said.

Sounds pretty forthright and convincing that he’s staying in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for the foreseeable future, doesn’t it?

Even with Dixon’s long friendship with Zak Brown, head honcho at McLaren.

“There are always going to be talks and whenever there is a season where a few guys have their options up, it will spark talk,” Dixon told Autoweek. “With new teams coming in, it sparks it even more.”

Sure, money is important to everyone, but Dixon hasn’t stuck with Ganassi for more than 16 years just because of the almighty buck. He’s had opportunities to go elsewhere, but has turned them all done.

Rather, Dixon has stayed with CGR due more to loyalty, trustworthiness and how two very different guys from completely different backgrounds and cultures have become as close as father and son. What’s more, do you really think Chip would let Dixon get away that easy? Not a chance.

When asked to respond to the various reports and rumors that have been circulating of late about Dixon and McLaren, a spokesman for Chip Ganassi Racing said Tuesday in an email to MotorSportsTalk, “We don’t have any comment as those are simply rumors that have been around for a while now.”

Dixon doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to go anywhere else. Given the fact he heads into Iowa with the points lead and has won two of the last four races (and finished third and fourth in the other two), a new contract with CGR, McLaren or potentially someone else, is a distant thought right now.

“For me, it’s about this season,” Dixon told Autoweek. “We are really focused on trying to win this championship. The other stuff is away from the track and there is nothing really there at the minute. I’m a little surprised by all of the talk so far.

“My focus right now is to win more races with Chip and his team and another championship. … That other stuff, we’ll look at further down the road.”

Let’s face it, when it comes time to retire, would Dixon rather be known for an illustrious IndyCar career with Ganassi, or be known as a guy who spent his last few years with a team that could potentially struggle early on more than succeed?

It’s a no-brainer of a decision for Dixon.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.