‘I let down so many people’: Scott Dixon still wrestling with bitter loss in 106th Indy 500

Scott Dixon Indy mistake
Kristin Enzor/For IndyStar / USA TODAY Sports Network

INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon remained dejected Monday night about the mistake that crushed his hopes of a victory when he exceeded the pit lane speed limit by 1 mph on his final stop in the 106th Indy 500.

“What makes it so hard for me is I let down so many people,” Dixon said during the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott Hotel. “The saving grace was Marcus winning that and making it successful.”

Marcus Ericsson, Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, was feted for his victory in Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle in Racing, earning $3.1 million from a record purse of $16 million. A huge contingent of Chip Ganassi Racing’s 160 employees (along with many family and friends) gathered Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for celebratory photo ops around the track.

But while the team could revel in its success, it still was hard to ignore the effect of the latest Indy 500 disappointment for Dixon.

He started from the Indy 500 pole position for the fifth time and led a race-high 95 of 200 laps, becoming the all-time lap leader in Indianapolis 500 history. But after controlling much of the race, his hopes of a second Indy 500 victory were dashed after serving a drive-through penalty for the Lap 175 speeding violation.

It was the fourth consecutive time (and second consecutive year) that Dixon had started first without winning. He finished 21st and collected a check for $707,000 after arriving late to Monday night’s ceremony.

The six-time IndyCar Series champion notably skipped the red carpet area where the media interviewed drivers before the formal dinner and program. As salads were being served, there was still no sign of Dixon. An Indianapolis Motor Speedway employee tried texting Dixon but did not get a reply.

The Victory Celebration was televised by NBC affiliate WTHR-TV in Indianapolis and streamed on Peacock. Each Indianapolis 500 driver is called to the podium for a brief interview by emcees Lindsey Czarniak or Dave Calabro, who spoke with Dixon.

“My goodness, my heart feels for you,” Calabro said. “I woke up this morning thinking about you. You led 95 laps. You and Alex Palou were just dialed in, having fun, cruising along, Sunday drive. Did it feel like that?”

A weary Dixon took a deep breath and said, “You can’t image how I feel, mate.

“It was a tough pill to swallow and something I didn’t expect, honestly,” Dixon continued. “It was a real bummer. It was really close. Looking back at what really happened makes it even worse.”

Dixon seemed to be shouldering the blame for Sunday’s outcome after Mike Hull, Chip Ganassi Racing managing director and Dixon’s race strategist, called one of his best races yet at the Indianapolis 500.

Dixon and Hull have worked together for more than 20 years and compiled six NTT IndyCar Series championships and 50 of Dixon’s 51 career victories, including the 2008 Indy 500.

Dixon has struggled to close out races at the Brickyard since then with his team often leaving the driver on the back foot. But Sunday’s execution was flawless by the crew, which employed some shrewd tactical maneuvering that helped Dixon catch a few breaks.

His No. 9 PNC Bank Honda was so good, he often ran at 90 percent throttle. He gave up the lead willingly to conserve fuel, knowing he easily could retake first. During the second-to-last stint, Dixon was able to build a significant gap as the team simulated the pace needed for the last fuel run.

Always known for his mastery of fuel conservation, Dixon was able to match the roughly 4.5 miles per gallon that those in traffic were getting even while he was leading the race. A car typically uses more fuel in the lead than when drafting off a car in front.

Saving on both fuel and pace with ease, it was all going well for Dixon until his final stop when he made the critical error — perhaps because he still was thinking about having lost time and position to Pato O’Ward on the previous stop. Dixon was slower on the in-lap to the pits because he got held up by traffic.

Entering too fast for his final stop, Dixon hit the brakes and smoked the rear tires to get under the pit lane speed limit.

By then, it was too late.

After Race Control called the penalty, Dixon screamed into the radio, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

On Monday night, Dixon was asked if he knew his car was over the speed limit.

“I didn’t actually think it was over, but obviously it’s a system that doesn’t lie,” Dixon said. “With the success we’ve had through the race on so many different levels and coming down to that closing point, you are trying to make the most of it.

“I’m so happy that Marcus Ericsson won. If a Ganassi driver didn’t win, I was going to take that loss even harder. Massive congratulations to him and Chip Ganassi. It’s just great they got it.”

Dixon became the all-time lap leader in Indianapolis 500 history, surpassing both Ralph De Palma and the late four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser in Sunday’s race.

“The only lap you need to lead is the last one,” Dixon said. “I’ve still got plenty to work on but it’s with one of the greatest teams in the sport’s history and working with the best in the business that has created that. It’s never one person, it’s hundreds of small details and the people that we get to work with that make this possible.”

Dixon proved he remains a team player and was proud of Ericsson winning the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in his career. Dixon knows that feeling from when he won the 2008 Indianapolis 500.

But since that lone victory, Dixon continues to be heartbroken in his bid for a second Indy 500 win.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan, who led eight of his first 11 Indy 500 starts before finally winning the race in 2013, can relate to Dixon’s recent frustration.

“I feel extremely bad for him,” Kanaan said Sunday. “He’s a dear friend of mine. I know how bad he’s feeling. That’s the kind of thing that will haunt you quite a bit for a little bit. You’re going to wake up in the morning.

“It’s one thing when something out of your control happens, but when we as drivers make a mistake, it’s pretty hard. But knowing who he is, I hate to say it, it’s only going to make him better.”

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’


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).