INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon celebrated his record run for his fifth Indy 500 pole position as one might expect: Stopping at a local Taco Bell.
“Except this one was on the north side of town near my home,” Dixon said. “The other one where Dario Franchitti and I were held up has been closed for a few years now.”
That, of course, was the infamous location on 16th Street, less than a mile to the east of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Dixon and Franchitti were held up at gunpoint in the drive-through window after Dixon won the Indy 500 pole in 2017.
There was no such drama Sunday night for Dixon.
After his media interviews were completed, the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and winner of 51 races went back to the Chip Ganassi Racing garage in Gasoline Alley and hung out with his crew until 9:30 p.m. ET.
The 20-minute drive to his neighborhood on the fashionable north side of Indianapolis was followed by the celebratory trip to Taco Bell.
After that, he returned home to discover his 2-year-old son, Kit, still was awake.
“Kit and I stayed up and watched the Australian Supercars race on television,” Dixon (who also celebrated his sixth title with Taco Bell in 2020) told NBCSports.com in an exclusive interview Monday morning in Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “It was a nice way to celebrate the Indy 500 pole, with my son watching Supercars on TV.”
Dixon provided the drama earlier in the day when he stunned the crowd with the fastest pole-winning run in Indianapolis 500 history. Dixon turned the fastest four-lap average speed in history for an Indianapolis 500 pole winner at 234. 046 mph. The previous record was 233.718 mph set in 1996 by the late Scott Brayton.
Arie Luyendyk set the all-time four-lap qualifying average speed record of 236.986 mph in 1996, but his run came on the second day of qualifications and wasn’t eligible for the pole.
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Dixon, like many of the fans who witnessed Sunday’s historic run, were also unfamiliar that it was a record run for an Indy 500 pole winner.
“I actually didn’t know the late Scott Brayton was the current holder of the record because you hear so much of Arie’s lap,” said Dixon, who maintained his pace Monday by turning the second-fastest lap in practice behind teammate Alex Palou (the defending series champion was second Sunday). “Even that confused me a little bit that it wasn’t an actual pole-winning time.
“It shows the effort this team puts in. What is even crazier about is that was an effort of five cars and almost all five made it to the Fast Six. Sometimes that effort can get diluted when you add extra cars.
“For me, it’s huge. I feel privileged and lucky in some ways to be in this position. But it’s all about the race.
“All about the race.”
It was Dixon’s fifth career Indy 500 pole, one short of Rick Mears’ record. Mears liked to say the Indianapolis 500 is actually two races. The first is the race to the pole position, and Dixon claimed that on Sunday.
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“It’s cool,” Dixon said. “Rick is absolutely right; it is two races. Qualifying is even more so a team effort because of the amount of work that goes into preparing these cars. It’s hundreds of small things that create the speed.
“Chip Ganassi (team owner) said it well this morning: It’s years of work that goes into this effort. You are proud and happy for so many people on this team that work so deep and so hard for years to get this to work.
“It’s the first part. It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but we are starting in a great position and hopefully we can keep it there. Hopefully, one of Chip’s cars will be celebrating and drinking some milk.”
Dixon’s wife, Emma, told NBCSports.com prior to the start of Sunday’s qualifications that she wasn’t sure she wanted to see her husband win the pole.
“The pole has been a bit unlucky for us in this race,” she said — before she was reminded that Dixon’s only Indianapolis 500 win in 2008 came from the pole.
“Oh, I forgot that we were on pole that year,” Emma Dixon said.
When told of that exchange, Scott Dixon smiled.
“Of course, you want the pole,” he said. “I told Emma this year, we won’t put as much emphasis on it as we have in recent years. If we didn’t get the pole, I wouldn’t be too disappointed because it hasn’t converted.
“Four poles and only one win, hopefully pole No. 5 brings the second Indianapolis 500 win.
“It sucks you win the pole and don’t win the race. But also, almost being out the Fast 12 and not even converting Sunday’s qualifying run was going to be tough. But we got lucky. Some bad weather came in and that really helped us if we were going to run again on Saturday. We were lucky to be able to run on Sunday, and we had the speed. The car was fast, super-fast. Kudos to (engineer) Michael Cannon. The first run was aggressive, maybe too aggressive when the car took off in Turn 2 with a gust of wind there.
“But on the pole-winning run, the car was almost perfect.”
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Dixon was able to put his car, and himself, on the line, not once, but twice on Sunday in two of the most intense qualifying runs of his career coming on the same day.
“It’s super intense,” he said. “Gone on the days of one run and you are done. The emotional roller-coaster you go through from lap-to-lap, even on the waiting you do, everyone on pit lane wants the pole.
“Everybody was super excited. The crowd loved it. They loved the excitement and the way it rolled. For the drivers, knowing the conditions were going to get better for the second run gave me a sense of ease.”
Dixon knew the first run on Sunday was going to be more difficult than the final run because temperatures were getting cooler, raising the speedway’s grip level.
When Dixon’s first lap at 234.437 mph was announced over the track’s massive public address system, the crowd let out a huge, spontaneous roar that could be heard over the scream of his Honda engine.
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Dixon, of course, was concentrating on his four-lap run, but when he saw that number pop up for the first lap, he knew he had started a great run.
The next three laps were 234.162, 233.859 and 233.726 mph for a four-lap average of 234.046 mph.
“It was huge,” Dixon said. “I was lucky enough to see videos of people watching in the stands, and there were a lot of people here on Sunday. It’s so cool to hear those comments. In the car, you don’t get to hear it or see it because you are so focused and you have an engine loud in your ears, you don’t get to hear it.
“That format played into it, the way it staggered everything and built it up. Kudos for the team for trimming it out for those big numbers.”
All four of Dixon’s teammates and the team’s special consultant – Franchitti, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IndyCar champion – were there to celebrate Dixon’s pole when he drove onto pit lane after his run.
“Honestly, they are my friends,” Dixon said. “We are great friends. All of us are tight. I’ve probably known Jimmie Johnson the least amount of time, but in his final years in NASCAR Cup we used to chat once or twice a month. It’s just a lot of fun hanging out with these people.
“Even when I leave the sport, I will go on vacations and be tight friends with this people.
“We are great friends and that is what I love about this sport. The IndyCar group as a whole are a tight-knit family. That is what I will take away from this sport when that day comes that I leave racing.”
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Dixon, who posed alongside the Borg-Warner Trophy with the Indy 500 field Monday, has also taken great delight in seeing Johnson’s level of progression in IndyCar since he joined the series in 2021.
“Just to see the excitement on his face, just to see the enthusiasm he has for IndyCar racing, the way he handles it and who he is as a person, you can see why he is successful,” Dixon said. “Even when he first joined the team, he has lifted the team. That is who he is and his personality and what he has achieved.
“I have loved seeing how much he has enjoyed it.”
Race No. 1 at Indianapolis is over, and Dixon won it by winning the pole. But it’s the big race on May 29 that counts – the 106th Indianapolis 500.
For Dixon, at least he has won it once, but that was back in 2008. Since then, he has come so close to winning several more Indianapolis 500s but fell short.
He remains determined to win his second Indianapolis 500.
“I’m as determined as ever,” Dixon said. “The longer you come to this place, and you have four or five second-place finishes and three of those have been under caution, those are the ones that hurt the most because you couldn’t even fight for it. One of those was a given if it had run its full course. Those suck.
“But that is also what keeps the fire really strong. Those close misses keep you up at night and anger you, too.
“This place owes me nothing. I love coming here. It’s a privilege coming here, and I’m very lucky coming with one of the best teams in the sport. We’ll keep digging. We’ll keep knocking on the door and one day, hopefully, it opens.
“Maybe one day. Maybe one day, I’ll get my second.”
Maybe that day will be Sunday, May 29, 2022.
“If it’s going to be hot, it’s going to be very tough and very tough to pass,” Dixon said. “You have to have a flawless day and we’ll need some luck.
“We are really going to need Lady Luck on our side on Race Day.”