Scott Dixon happy to stay in Indy 500 shadows
While his team struggles with setup and speed, Scott Dixon has flown under the radar during preparations for the Indianapolis 500.
It's exactly how he wants it. It's how he has tried to be his entire career.
"I like to live simply," Dixon said.
As such, one of the most decorated IndyCar drivers of the last decade goes grossly underappreciated for his accomplishments.
Dixon's 33 career victories rank seventh all-time, and three more wins would leapfrog him past Al Unser Jr and Bobby Unser into fourth place. The only drivers who rank higher than Dixon in victories right now have the last name Andretti, Foyt and Unser.
Since joining Chip Ganassi Racing in 2002 while the team still raced in the now-defunct CHAMP Car Series, Dixon has won at least one race in every season except two. He has an Indianapolis 500 win on his resume, and his three IndyCar championships - spread out in 2003, 2008 and 2013 - show a consistency and longevity that's hard to match.
At just 33-years-old, the New Zealander conceivably has almost another decade of racing ahead of him.
But he's worked in the shadow of some huge personalities and some of American open-wheel racing's biggest stars.
When Dario Franchitti joined the Ganassi organisation in 2009, Dixon watched his famous team-mate reel off three consecutive championships and two Indy 500 wins. In that same span, Dixon finished second in the championship once, third three times, and finished second to Franchitti in the 2012 Indy 500.
Living in Franchitti's shadow never bothered him.
"I preferred that, actually," said Dixon, who will start Monday's Indy 500 in 11th, in the fourth row. "When I come out of the truck and everyone is standing around waiting, they all chased after Dario, and I could just get on the scooter and ride off and get to work. I've never had any problem not having the spotlight on me."
Franchitti is on the sidelines now, forced into retirement last November from injuries suffered in a crash at Houston a month earlier. The imposing 1-2 attack of the two red Target cars has been broken up.
It means Dixon finally has the team to himself, but he doesn't view it that way - he maintains it's always been owner Chip Ganassi's team - and the laid-back Kiwi isn't seeking any fame.
It's a shame, because he's earned the attention.
"He's achieved so much, he's one of the most successful of all time, but a lot of people don't know that," said defending Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, a fan favourite and Franchitti's replacement this year in the Ganassi organisation. "He just does his job. Is he more famous than me? Not really. But we're not talking about that. It's not what his goal is. He's doing exactly what he wants to do."
Dixon excels at striving for more and putting in the work toward continuing to improve his race craft.
"He doesn't stop learning. He doesn't allow what he's just done to be the high point in his life, in his career. He only uses that as a springboard for the next day," said Mike Hull, Ganassi's managing director and the strategist atop Dixon's pit stand.
"We just do not stop learning together, and he represents us. I wish we could clone him, to be honest about it, moving forward because he's the kind of person you need driving your race cars."
In his 13th season with Ganassi, Dixon is easily the longest tenured driver in the team's history.
The team owner says the longevity is because Dixon "doesn't seem to carry much baggage with him." For an owner who dislikes drama or having to massage egos and manage personalities, Dixon is his easy child.
As for where Dixon ranks among the all-time greats, Ganassi doesn't want to be part of the conversation.
"We're obviously very proud to have Scott," Ganassi said. "When you talk about legacies . . . that will be something someday for you in the media to talk about. I don't think it's our position in the race team to talk about that. We certainly think his name deserves to be up there as well." AP