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Column: Scott Dixon really is simply the best in IndyCar

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If there ever was a theme song that was perfectly suited for veteran IndyCar driver Scott Dixon, it’s Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best.”

Consider this lyric clip from the song, which could easily be uttered by team owner Chip Ganassi: “You’re simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I ever met.”

Indeed, Dixon is simply the best IndyCar driver of his generation and more.

How else would you describe the soft-spoken 38-year-old, who is the third-winningest driver in IndyCar history (44 wins) and who is chasing his fifth IndyCar championship this season?

That’s why it was so important that Ganassi signed Dixon to a contract extension as soon as possible, a deal that was announced earlier today. Ganassi didn’t want to risk losing the best driver he’s ever had in his stable, not to McLaren (either in F1 or IndyCar), IMSA or even racing rival Roger Penske.

MORE: Scott Dixon signs new contract with Chip Ganassi Racing

MORE: What They’re Saying: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi talk about new deal, future going forward

Now that Dixon is solidly in the CGR fold for the next several years, he doesn’t have to worry about his competitive and financial future for a long time.

Rather, all Dixon has to worry about now is what he does best: win races and championships.

And with four races remaining in the 2018 Verizon Indy Car Series schedule – Pocono this Sunday (on NBCSN), followed by Gateway, Portland and the season finale at Sonoma – Dixon is well-positioned to not only win a fourth or maybe even a fifth race of 2018, but more importantly, to capture his fifth IndyCar championship.

Heck, with his new contract all signed and legal now, if anyone could win each of the last four races of this season, it’s Dixon, who comes into Sunday’s race with a 46-point edge over second-ranked Alexander Rossi.

If he does win that fifth title this year, Dixon would pass Mario Andretti as the driver with the second-most championships in U.S. open-wheel racing (USAC and CART).

Only A.J. Foyt has more titles – seven in USAC.

In addition, Dixon is just eight wins away from tying Andretti (52 wins) as the second-winningest open-wheel driver.

Given how young he still is (38 years old) and how well he’s kept himself in great physical shape after 18 grueling IndyCar seasons, Dixon is still at the top of his game.

There’s no reason why this new contract, which begins in 2019 and likely runs through 2021 or 2022 (the team did not announce the official length or terms), is NOT the last one Dixon will sign with CGR, as some other media outlets today may have you believe.

Frankly, I can VERY easily see Dixon signing two more deals with the Chipster that would likely carry him through the 2027 season.

Can you imagine what Dixon could do between now and then? He’s averaged just under three wins per season throughout his 18-year career. If he can maintain that pace – and if anyone can, it’s the soft-spoken New Zealander – he could easily win another 15-20 races between now and 2027.

And maybe three or more championships.

And he’d only be 47 by then. Heck, Foyt won his seventh and final Indy car championship when he was 44, so Dixon is certainly in the ballpark to do so.

When you have the best, you can’t afford to let him go anywhere else, and that’s exactly what Ganassi found himself faced with. He may not have broken the bank, but he likely had to dig deep in his piggy bank to keep Dixon in the fold.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dixon and Ganassi have been joined at the hip for so many years that it’s hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins.

It’s not unusual for some folks to even mix up their names, referring to them as Scott Ganassi and Chip Dixon. They’re that close.

They’re not boss and employee. They’re best of friends, brothers from another mother. And there’s no question they have one of the greatest racing marriages ever seen.

It would have been a shame – no, make it an unthinkable travesty – if Ganassi would somehow have let Dixon go. Sure, there was money involved, likely lots of big money, but this wasn’t just solely about the green stuff and how much Chip was going to part with and how much Scott would accept.

Rather, this was more about a brotherhood that neither side wanted to see broken up. I’m sure during their negotiations that Dixon at some point gave thought to how awkward it may be if he had jumped the CGR ship.

After all, virtually everything Dixon has done, all the success he’s achieved and the wins and championships likely would never have happened without Ganassi giving him the resources, the equipment and surrounded him with some of the best people in the racing business.

Now, no one – not Dixon, his family, Ganassi or the whole IndyCar community – has to worry about any of the presumptions, suppositions and rumors any longer. The great Kiwi is going nowhere and can just keep being simply the best, thankfully.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”