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.