INDIANAPOLIS – Back in the late 1990s, early 2000s, my uncle worked for PacWest Racing. I remember him telling me about a love fest his boss Bruce McCaw had for a driver named Scott Dixon. McCaw was saying Dixon would be among the greatest ever.
Fast forward nearly two decades later, Dixon to me is arguably among the great to ever drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
As we sit here today, Dixon has 40 IndyCar victories. Only A.J. Foyt (67) Mario Andretti (52) and Michael Andretti (42) have more. Also, he had 35 runner-ups. That ranks fourth ever. His 92 podiums, well they’re tied with Dario Franchitti for fifth all-time. His 136 top fives, those rank sixth.
Combine that with four championships, and it’s easy to wonder why no one gives him the credit he deserves.
“I think Scott (Dixon) should do a lot more interviews and appearances,” Tony Kanaan jokingly told me on Friday. “It’s amazing, I had great teammates my entire career but he’s, I don’t think I need to sit here and tell you how good he is. I think you said it. It’s funny though, all he cares about is winning. He doesn’t care about any of those numbers that you mentioned. I don’t think he cares if he’s as popular as me or not, I know he’s here for pure racing which I appreciate. It’s just the way he is. He’s the “ice man” and I’m really glad I get to chance to work with him. I get mad at him plenty of times because he’s beating me all the time. He raises the game all the time.”
Another one of Dixon’s teammates Charlie Kimball agreed.
“Having him as a teammate on my side as a rookie it shortened the learning curve tremendously,” Charlie Kimball said of Dixon. “Like Tony (Kanaan) said, the only person he really cares about what they think are those three ladies he goes home to (Dixon’s wife Emma and their two daughters). “Other than winning, that’s probably what matters most to him. That’s one of things I respect most about him as a driver is his pure passion for the sport and humility of his success.”
His third teammate Max Chilton has raced all over Europe including a brief stint in Formula One. He too holds a high regard for Dixon.
“It’s great to be surrounded by such friendly and fast drivers,” Max Chilton said. “Scott in particular is one of the most competitive or fastest driver I’ve had as a teammate in my 15 years of racing.”
The only reason I can think of is that he has just one Indy 500 victory in 2008. But, he has been stellar in the season’s biggest race. Dixon, has nine top eight finishes in the last 11 years. He’s been close all those times, but just hasn’t had the car to win it in the end.
This year, that could change though.
Dixon’s team switched from Chevrolet power to Honda power in the offseason, and by what happened last year and by what occurred in the offseason, Honda’s may very well be the manufacturer to beat this year.
In last year’s race, Honda drivers led 129 of the 200 laps in the Indy 500. With an aerokit freeze in the offseason, it will take a lot for Chevy to close the gap. Now, factor in a team like Ganassi with Honda now too, it’s easy to see why Dixon is an early favorite to win next Sunday’s 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network).
Would a second Indy 500 make Dixon among the greatest ever, and finally get people to take notice of his greatness?
Chip Ganassi chimed in. He said a good friend and Hall of Famer in NASCAR paid the ultimate compliment about Dixon.
“A lot of you know I’m friends with Leonard Wood from the Wood Brothers and you obviously know the Wood Brothers history here in Indianapolis,” Chip Ganassi told me. “I think Leonard gave Scott the greatest compliment. He said Scott reminds him of David Pearson. He said you know when you have David Pearson driving your car, if you didn’t win, you know you had to work on our car a bit.
“I thought that was the ultimate compliment. He said that’s what Dixon is. If you don’t win with him in your car, you need to work on your car.”