Scott Dixon casts a mythic shadow over the IndyCar series

0 Comments

Of all the drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series, there is one who stands alone at the mountaintop of greatness.

It’s five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon.

As Alexander Rossi has said, Dixon sets the benchmark, not only as a race driver but also as a man.

Rossi isn’t alone in that opinion. Every driver in the series realizes that Dixon is the target of excellence on an annual basis. At 39, he is able to fend off drivers almost half his age. Since he joined CART as a 20-year-old rookie from Auckland, New Zealand in 2001, Dixon has driven seven different iterations of Indy cars.

WATCH: Where to find this weekend’s St. Petersburg GP

VIEWER’S GUIDE: Five things to watch this season in IndyCar

While some drivers struggle making the transition from one car to the next, Dixon has excelled. He has done that through a combination of talent, ability, supreme work ethic and understanding the engineering and mechanical aspects of the car.

That is one reason why Dixon was the first driver to test the first version of IndyCar’s Aeroscreen at Phoenix Raceway in 2018. When dramatic changes were made to that project in 2019, Dixon tested it at the Dallara simulator in July. He was back in the car to test it at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway last October.

Counting the aeroscreen, the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season will be the eighth different iteration of race car Dixon has driven in his career.

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

In true Dixon fashion, however, he credits Chip Ganassi Racing with making those transitions appear easy.

“That is a strong part of the team,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “They have always done well at adapting. It’s not just me, it’s teammates, too. It’s a successful team. In the past, transitions and car versions have played well with the team.

“We’ll have to see how this one plays out.”

Considering Dixon’s monumental record of five IndyCar Series championships, 46 career victories including the 2008 Indianapolis 500, expect him to make a seamless transition.

His 46 wins are third on the all-time list of victories trailing Mario Andretti’s 52 and AJ Foyt’s 67. His five championships are two behind Foyt’s record of seven.

Dixon returns for his 20th season as an IndyCar driver in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I think everybody is excited to get the season started,” Dixon said Monday. “When you live in the Midwest, everybody is looking forward to getting to some warm weather. I think some of us have had the luxury of doing additional races, which is always good, before the season takes off.

“The format of the IndyCar season right now, how long the off-season is, how little testing there is, I think there’s a lot of built-up energy and people eager to get going.

“There’s no difference for me. I think everybody is just trying to prepare as well as possible and make the off-season gains and development and just try and take off and fix the areas of weaknesses that we had last year.

“Ultimately, I’m excited to get going and can’t wait.”


Dixon’s offseason was a memorable one. On December 27, 2019, his wife Emma gave birth to the couple’s third child, a boy named Kit. The couple already has two daughters including Poppy (10) and Tilly, (8).

As Emma said over the offseason, the family didn’t feel “complete” until Kit arrived. Now, he is part of what she calls the family, “Traveling Circus.”

Shortly after Kit’s birth, Dixon was in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He was on the overall winning team for the third time in his career, and a class winning team for the fourth time in the Rolex 24.

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

After that, it was off to Mount Panorama in Australia for the Bathurst 12 Hours. Six days after IndyCar at St. Pete, Dixon will be in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

“It probably wasn’t a good idea to sign up for extra races,” Dixon quipped after being asked about having a newborn in the family. “That’s been challenging. It’s been fun. The baby is doing very well. Sleeping quite well through the night and that is very good. Poppy was a little tougher than Kit has been.

“All in all, Emma has been amazing.”

Dixon, along with his family, will make the trip to St. Petersburg, Florida to start another season of IndyCar action. The race has become one of the cornerstones of the series, developing its own unique place on the schedule as the season opener. It began as a Champ Car Series race in 2003, was not held in 2004, and has been part of the current IndyCar Series schedule every year since 2005.

“I think the circuit itself is a really great layout,” Dixon explained. “It has opportunities to pass. Typically, it’s been one of our longest races. They made some adjustments to the actual race this year.

“The city really embraces the race, too, which I think is really special. It’s just the general size of the event, the viewing areas, the downtown atmosphere. What Green Savoree have turned it into, it’s been an all-around top race to go to.

“For me it’s more about being a really tough track from the driver’s side. Quite technical and quite difficult to get right. It’s a race that I’ve always wanted to win, still trying to tick that box. Definitely a challenging race, one that we’ve seen in the past that for whatever reason can kind of flip the field.

“We’ve had a lot of winners from the back of the pack at that place. I think that’s more prominent to maybe just the start of the race and people kind of finding where they should be at that time, too.

“I think it will create fantastic racing. It’s a circuit that drivers really love.”


Ironically, it’s also one of the few places where Dixon has never won. In fact, he is winless in all 15 starts at St. Petersburg.

“They’re all tough,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “I think we finished second there four times (including last year). I don’t know why we haven’t won. I’ve led races there, checking out, hit the wall, done crazy stuff. We’ve been in similar situations with strategy where it’s been flipped as well.

“It’s tough, man. It’s tough to win. The place doesn’t owe us anything. We have to work harder and try to eventually get to that top spot. Each year I swear just keeps getting more difficult. There is never one thing. I think it’s constantly changing.

“We’ll just keep our head down and keep working hard, man.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).