Scott Dixon, other IndyCar drivers shocked to hear about Andrew Luck’s retirement

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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MADISON, Illinois – In the close-knit city of Indianapolis, where professional athletes are often next-door neighbors or work together on charitable causes, sports stars often become friends with stars from other sports.

Such is the case with five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and many members of the Indianapolis Colts.

When the stunning news broke that Andrew Luck was retiring as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 was already well underway. Such news of the day is a secret for other sports figures as they are in active competition.

Dixon’s race ended early after a punctured radiator on Lap 1 forced his car out of the race after it lost all the water to keep the engine cool. His Chip Ganassi Racing crew would fix the No. 9 PNC Bank Chevrolet and send Dixon back onto the track, but when he gained all the positions he possibly could, the car was parked because there were no more points for Dixon to achieve.

Dixon was walking back to his transporter when he was approached by NBC to ask about his race and how it impacted his attempt at a sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship. After that conversation ended, he was told Andrew Luck had retired.

“Oh my Gosh,” Dixon told NBC “Wow. That’s horrendous.

“I’m super bummed for him. He’s a super nice guy and I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with him at some charity events. I’m actually shocked. I know he was having some issues in the preseason, but it sounded like he would be ready for the regular season.

“I’m super-bummed for him. He’s a great guy. A super nice guy. He’s very intelligent. He’ll have a bright career in whatever he chooses to do. That’s his passion so I really feel for him.”

Luck was a very active member of the Indianapolis community and was a big fan of the NTT IndyCar Series. He knows many of the drivers and was often a visitor to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Indy 500 practice and on Indianapolis 500 Race Day.

Conor Daly is usually one of the more talkative members of the IndyCar driver community, and a huge Colts fan. He grew up in the Indianapolis suburbs and many of the Colts players are his personal friends.

He thought the news of Luck’s retirement was a bad joke at first.

“No way,” Luck told NBC “Are you serious? Yikes. That’s tough. That’s wild. I’ll have to let that sink in.

“I love Indy, man, I love my hometown. I’ll always support everyone in Indy, for sure.”

Ed Carpenter is considered a “Hometown Hero” in Indianapolis because he grew up in the community as part of the family that owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has gone on to be one of the greatest qualifiers in Indianapolis 500 history with three Indy 500 poles. He finished second to Wil Power in the 102ndIndianapolis 500 in 2018.

Carpenter is a Butler University graduate and a big fan of both the NFL Colts and the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.

“I can’t believe it,” Carpenter told NBC when told about Luck’s retirement. “I’m totally caught off-guard by that. Andrew is a great guy and I’m sure he has his reasons. The timing is a little concerning. I heard it as soon as I got out of the car and that was pretty wild.

“It will be interesting to see how it goes down.”

After Saturday night’s preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, some very disappointed Colts fans booed Luck as he walked off the field for the final time.

“I think the fan base has a right to be upset when their franchise quarterback retires a couple weeks before the season, but I have no idea what is going on,” Carpenter said. “I’ve gotten to know Andrew a few times. I’m sure it’s a decision he has thought about.

“We’re entertainers and when it’s your time, it’s your time. If he is comfortable with it, that’s fine.

“It’s a game. We all play a game.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”