INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owen
INDYCAR Photo by John Cote

Scott Dixon has ‘to race for wins’ starting at Toronto

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TORONTO – Scott Dixon’s mission is clear in regard to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

Although the five-time IndyCar Series champion is fourth in points, Dixon is 106 points behind championship points leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. With just seven races remaining in the season, Dixon is taking a “Win or else” attitude when it comes to the battle for the championship.

“I think the effect for us is we have to race for wins now,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There is no other way to try and rebound on this championship, especially when the likes of Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi have been running so well at every configuration, too.

“We definitely have to step it up.”

Dixon heads into this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto as the defending winner after he started second and led 49 laps in the 85-lap street race in 2018. It was this third win in Toronto in 14 IndyCar Series starts, including two seasons in CART in 2001 and 2002.

Watch the Honda Indy Toronto on NBCSN July 14 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Dixon is arriving at Toronto at full speed after his brilliant display of racing at Road America on June 23. He was involved in a first-lap incident that saw him spin off course. When he returned to the track, he was 10 seconds behind the entire field.

In a contest that ran green flag for the entire distance, Dixon was able to race his way to a fifth-place finish.

Imagine what Dixon could have done without the first-lap spin-out.

“Could have, should have, would have, right?” Dixon said. “Visually, it could have been an easy podium. Honestly, it’s hard to get into a full-on battle at the front.

“It was a good day for us considering what happened. But it doesn’t mean much to talk about what could have been a possibility. It was frustrating for what happened. For us generally it was a decent points day.”

Toronto is one of Dixon’s best street courses. The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion has a great knack for that track.

“I think our track record has been pretty good there,” Dixon admitted. “The series has moved on a lot from last season. The competition is definitely tighter and more difficult. We need to get more speed in the car, nicer to drive.

“We had good cars at Road America, but it was hard to piece a good lap together for me. Felix (Rosenqvist, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) was able to do it a little bit more often in some of the sessions. The split times were decent, but I really couldn’t get it together in qualifying.

“There’s a lot of things in the works that hopefully help us. But really, as usual, it’s the results that really talk. We’ll leave it to that.”

It’s the results that are going to get Dixon back into contention for a potential sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship. The 45-time IndyCar Series race winner knows that racing for points, won’t get him back to the front.

From this point forward, he has to “win or else.”

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”