IndyCar: ‘Born Racer’ documentary on Scott Dixon is a big winner

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Monday night’s debut of “Born Racer,” the documentary about Scott Dixon, his life and his 2017 IndyCar season, can best be described in one word:

Outstanding.

The nearly 90-minute biopic was so well done that it will likely raise the bar even higher on sports documentaries, and give future documentaries an even higher ladder to climb when it comes to accessibility, story telling and excellent editing.

“Born Racer” covered Dixon’s evolution as a race car driver, starting back when he was a young lad racing go-karts in his native New Zealand, to where he is today: the new 2018 IndyCar champion and only the second driver in Indy car history to earn five Indy car championships in a career (A.J. Foyt is the other, with seven titles).

Produced by fellow New Zealander Matthew Metcalfe, who also brought to the screen “McLaren,” the story of another New Zealander, Bruce McLaren, and his legendary racing teams, “Born Racer” does great justice to Dixon on so many levels.

MORE: ‘Born Racer’: The compelling and inspirational story of Scott Dixon to be released Oct. 2

The film’s cameras are brought into some of the most private parts of Dixon’s life, from his marriage to wife Emma, his devotion to daughters Poppy and Tilly, his quiet determination and confidence behind the wheel, how he tunes out the rest of the world and displays steel-edged focus in the hours before a race, how Chip Ganassi Racing is Dixon’s extended family and so much more.

Dixon stands in front of an impressive trophy cabinet detailing his racing career. Photo: Jerry Bonkowski

There are so many cross-sections that intersect throughout the movie. Some will make you smile if not outright laugh. But there are also parts where you’ll likely tear up, like the recollection of the death of Dan Wheldon during a race at Las Vegas on Oct. 16, 2011.

Dixon, his wife, and team owner Chip Ganassi gave extraordinary access to Metcalfe and director Bryn Evans, as well as countless cameras that dutifully recorded so much behind the scenes action, truly giving race fans one of the most personal and in-depth looks at what goes on in the IndyCar paddock, on pit road and of course the race track – not to mention their home and motor coach, their home away from home on race weekends.

The timing and pace/flow of the film was also spot-on. For example, shortly after segments about the start of the 2017 season and flashbacks to Dixon’s racing days as a youth, the movie trumpeted Dixon winning the pole for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 (his only pole of the season).

While there were plenty of smiles and jubilation after earning the pole and then starting the actual race a week later, suddenly and without warning, cameras rolled at countless angles capturing when Dixon – with nowhere to go at 230-plus mph – crashed into the car of Jay Howard late in the 500, prompting Dixon’s to fly several feet into the air, hit the SAFER Barrier head-on and disintegrated around him (including the engine block being sheared completely in half).

And yet Dixon was able to exit the wreckage under his own power, was checked out and cleared at the track medical center (although he did suffer a broken left tibia that left him in a walking boot and on crutches for the following few weeks), and continued his season the following week at Belle Isle.

Let’s face it, motor racing – particularly IndyCar – is a very proprietary sport. Teams don’t want other teams to know what they’re doing or what their secrets are.

Yet Metcalfe’s and Evans’ cameras were seemingly ever-present when they needed to be at the most significant times, catching not only the public, but also the private and even a few secrets.

Going along with motorsports being a proprietary thing, it’s unlikely many – if any – team owners other than Ganassi would have allowed such unprecedented access to a film crew that didn’t hesitate to show the bad along with the good, the tears along with the laughter.

Speaking of Ganassi, a side of him is also conveyed that isn’t as readily seen at the racetrack. He not only is the team’s leader and owner, he also is a fountain of inspiration, has a no-nonsense way of conveying his message of winning each and every race, and also displays an inspirational tone of a deep-thinking and motivation where he comes off as kind of the Vince Lombardi of IndyCar, where winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

The movie ended with two bits of irony:

1) Emma Dixon conceded that although her 38-year-old husband gave it all he could, Josef Newgarden was not to be denied the 2017 championship. Scott Dixon would finish third, 21 points back.

2) But, that being said, comes the other irony: Emma Dixon also believed that for as good as her husband did in 2017, she had a “very good feeling that 2018 was going to be something really special.”

And how prophetic Emma Dixon, herself a world-class athlete (running), proved to be.

While the movie culminated with scenes of the 2017 championship at Sonoma Raceway, a last-minute scene was added to the conclusion, proudly stating that Dixon did go on to have “something really special” in 2018 by winning the championship over Alexander Rossi, Newgarden and Will Power.

“Born Racer” will go on sale on DVD and digital download on October 2nd. If you’re an IndyCar fan or a motorsports fan in general – even if you root for a driver other than Dixon – his story is definitely something that should be in your collection.

It’s one of the most defining pieces ever about what IndyCar is, what it’s made up of, as well as the people like Scott Dixon that make it up.

To pay homage to the late, great Roger Ebert, “Born Racer” is definitely a two thumbs up story.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IMSA Prototype Season in Review

IMSA
Leave a comment

IMSA Wire Service

It was a year of change for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The longtime sprint series evolved in 2018 to six one-hour, 45-minute endurance races that allowed teams to run single or two-driver combinations with a required minimum-time pit stop. The result: record-high car counts in the LMP3 class with Kris Wright ultimately winning the series championship for Extreme Speed Motorsports, while Cameron Cassels took home the LMP3 Masters title. In the MPC class, meanwhile, series veteran Jon Brownson won his first championship in the final season for the class with a breakthrough win one week ago in the season finale at Road Atlanta.

This season-in-review takes a look back at the path each of the three champions took on their way to history.

1. Daytona International Speedway, January 6

Winners
LMP3: Roman De Angelis, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Gary Gibson, No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2
MPC: Robert Masson, No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Not only was the season-opener during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend the first endurance race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, it also was the first race for the series at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. Wright, driving the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 scored his first podium of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Morad with a third-place finish behind Porsche GT3 Challenge driver and winner Roman De Angelis and co-drivers Austin McCusker and David Droux, finishing second for the upstart Forty7 Motorsports team. Masson scored the MPC win, lapping all but one car, while Brownson came home fifth.

2. Sebring International Raceway, March 16

Winners
LMP3: Leo Lamelas / Pato O’Ward, No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: James McGuire Jr., No. 26 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Dave House, No. 86 ONE Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The round at Sebring featured a late-race restart that saw eventual 2018 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge champion O’Ward drive from fourth to first in the closing laps to secure the win for full-time driver Lamelas. Wright, meanwhile, finished third for the second consecutive time to start the season with a new co-driver, Michael Whelden. The No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry again finished second with McCusker now joined by TJ Fischer, who would go on to run the full season with the team. Coming out of Sebring, McCusker would lead Wright by four points, 64-60. Between Sebring and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park, Wright would decide to contest the full season for Extreme Speed Motorsports.

It was a special victory in the MPC class with House becoming IMSA’s oldest race winner at the age of 75. Foreshadowing a points race that what would ultimately come down to the season finale at Road Atlanta, the top five in the MPC standings are separated by two points leaving Sebring, with Brownson seventh, 12 points out, after a ninth-place finish.

3. Barber Motorsports Park, April 21

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Yann Clairay, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Rob Hodes, No. 51 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Michal Chlumecky, No. 31 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The only standalone event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda would prove to be the turning point in the LMP3 class. Leading all but one practice session on the weekend and starting the race from the pole, Wright and co-driver Clairay dominated the event, only losing the lead briefly on a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wright’s biggest competition for the championship, meanwhile, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports team, seemed poised to score its third consecutive runner-up finish of the season to hold onto the LMP3 points lead, but contact between Fischer and an MPC car with five minutes remaining relegated the team to a 16th-place finish. Entering the weekend down four points in the standings, Wright left Barber up six points, 95-89, over Lamelas.

Chlumecky scored his first MPC class win since 2012, while teammate Brownson, the Sebring pole winner, capped off a Eurosport Racing 1-2 finish placing second in the team’s No. 34 entry. Masson rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 to regain the class lead. Brownson left Barber eight points behind Masson, fifth in the standings.

4. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 8

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The long overdue first victory for Forty7 Motorsports finally came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for McCusker and Fischer, but a second-place finish for Wright meant McCusker could only gain three points on the series leader, with Wright keeping the deficit at 13 points. Dean Baker would score the LMP3 Masters win, the fourth winner in four races following Gibson at Daytona, McGuire Jr. at Sebring and Hodes at Barber. Cassels finished on the LMP3 Masters podium for the first time in 2018 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, finishing the race seventh overall and third in LMP3 Masters.

Leading the MPC standings coming into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Robert Masson enlisted son and defending series champion Kyle Masson as a co-driver for the remainder of the season. The plan appeared to work with the duo crossing the line first, but upon post-race analysis of drive-time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle Masson did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the car was moved to the back of the MPC results. That penalty elevated Jacobs and French to the race win in Performance Tech’s No. 77 entry and moved Brownson, who finished second for the consecutive race, to the class championship lead. Coming out of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the top six in points were separated by just two points with two races remaining.

5. VIRginia International Raceway, August 18

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Stephen Simpson, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Wright enlisted IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Stephen Simpson as co-driver at VIR and delivered a knockout punch in the LMP3 title fight, scoring the win and opening a 23-point lead over McCusker, who finished sixth. Baker would win his second consecutive race in LMP3 Masters with a second-place finish overall alongside Zacharie Robichon. Hodes would lead the LMP3 Masters points by two points over Jim Garrett, eight points over Cassels and nine points over Joel Janco.

Robert Masson seemed poised to take the points lead and win alongside Kyle Masson as the duo drove brilliantly in the rain, building a nearly one-lap lead. A mechanical issue with 17 minutes remaining, however, set up a late-race sprint to the finish with French winning on the last lap for Jacobs.

With only one race remaining, House moved into the class lead by three points, 143-140, over Jacobs. The top seven teams were mathematically eligible for the championship and separated by a mere eight points.

6. Road Atlanta, October 12

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Cameron Cassels, No. 75 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Jon Brownson, No. 34 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The second win of the season for the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry and co-driver McCusker and Fischer was not enough to take the championship away from Wright, who finished second at Road Atlanta to sweep podiums in all six races on the series schedule.

Cassels scored his first LMP3 Masters win of the season, and despite entering the weekend eight points behind in the standings, would also win the LMP3 Masters championship after each of the title contenders ran into various issues on-track.

Brownson called it an “honor” to win the final race for the MPC class. Brownson, who started in the first race for the series in 2006, scored his first win of the season in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry to win the final championship for the class.