Scott Dixon casts a mythic shadow over the IndyCar series

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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.

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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 

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994