Scott Dixon likes being IndyCar's quiet achiever
Quietly, in the shadow of his team-mate, Scott Dixon has put together one of the most impressive resumes in IndyCar.
He's tied with Rick Mears for 10th on the career victory list and another three wins would push him past Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais as the active driver with the most wins. Dixon has two titles, an Indianapolis 500 win and hasn't finished lower than third in the standings since 2006.
Yet, it's Franchitti, with his four titles and three Indy 500 wins, who gets most of the attention.
"He's famous. He's got great hair, great teeth, newly single. He's a stud," Dixon joked.
Dixon heads into this weekend's race at Long Beach ranked second in the IndyCar standings after two masterful drives that didn't go unnoticed. He drove from 20th to fifth in the season-opener at St Petersburg, then had his fourth consecutive runner-up finish at Barber two weeks ago.
That's the attention that Dixon wants.
"I prefer to do the talking on the track," the Kiwi said. "I don't talk [crap] about other people, or worry about what else is going on. I'm not a gunslinger, not a showboater."
Franchitti, team-mate with Dixon since 2009, doesn't think his fame overshadows his offsider. Instead, it's Dixon's personality to stay under the radar and let his results speak for him.
"He's very, very good. Fiercely competitive," Franchitti said. "But he definitely likes to be quiet and low-key. He likes that side of things. But I think people who really pay attention know what Dixie is capable of."
What he's capable of is earning a spot as one of the greatest drivers in series history. Dixon has won multiple races in all but two of his 10 IndyCar seasons, and at seven years younger than Franchitti, he's got a ton of racing ahead of him.
He has signed a contract extension with Chip Ganassi Racing, where he's driven since 2002 and is the longest tenured driver in Ganassi history. That's a lifetime with a volatile owner who can quickly tire of drivers.
Dixon can't envision driving anything besides his Target-sponsored No 9 car.
"I think my relationship with Chip has evolved - it started out as a school principal and bad student for a little while," Dixon said. "But I respect him a lot in the fact that he loves to race. That's the biggest thing for me. It's why I enjoy being with the team so much, everyone has the same idea about winning, and to me, he's mellowed out a lot over the last five years.
"But it's really like a family. I've known most of the people on the team longer than some of my best friends. It's an easy scenario and to me if you are at a team that wants to do that, wants to win, I don't want to go anywhere else. I want this to be a career team."
When asked earlier this year why the relationship with Dixon works so well, Ganassi joked "because he doesn't call me, and I don't call him".
The reality, team manager Mike Hull said, was that Dixon was very similar to the Pittsburgh-bred team owner.
"His demeanor is a lot like Chip in a lot of ways. He's very much to the point. He's able to come right at us with the good things and the bad things and then move on," Hull said.
"The culture and personality of our team is quite that way, so he's blended quite well. He is very, very unselfish. He is not afraid to have everything right up here on top of the table with his team-mates or with the engineer for the other driver or with the guys who work on the car. It doesn't matter to him. Because he feels his actions on the race track will benefit because it will be valued back to him from his team-mates."
Never was that more apparent than last year when he and Franchitti dominated the Indianapolis 500. Dixon led 53 laps and Franchitti led 23 - including the final one. He wound up second to Franchitti - same result as 2007 - and appeared crestfallen as he climbed from his car. But he was at Franchitti's victory party later that night, supporting his friend on his own bitter day.
"I don't know if he'll give you a true answer to that but I knew it hurt him. It would have hurt me, too," Franchitti said. "He drove a very, very good race. It was between the two of us who was going to get it done and it was just circumstance as much as anything. I took one strategy to be in front in case there was a yellow and he took another. That's what it came down to."
Dixon shrugged this week when asked about the 500.
"Indy sucks unless you win. So much goes into it and coming with a team that's always competitive - that's what you go there for, to win.
"Second is great but nobody really cares," he said. "But I think if I can't win, the next best person is my team-mate. Well, if they are a nice team-mate. And Dario kind of falls into that category."
Then Dixon explained all the reasons why Franchitti's win was special, noting that he did it while driving a special No 50 car to commemorate Target's 50th anniversary.
"It was a perfect scenario, a 1-2 finish, a good deal," Dixon said. "I was happy about a lot of things, except maybe the placings being reversed."
It didn't stick with Dixon long, though. He went into Detroit the next week and picked up the first of his two wins last year.