Scott Dixon interview: An IndyCar champion’s next chapter

Scott Dixon prepares for qualifying at the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski/Courtesy of IndyCar.
Scott Dixon prepares for qualifying at the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski/Courtesy of IndyCar. /

Scott Dixon has conquered every challenge that’s come his way. Now the IndyCar legend is starting a new chapter, and he spoke to FanSided about his future.

Scott Dixon is a champion. It’s right there on his resume — four Verizon IndyCar Series titles. One Indianapolis 500 victory. Fifteen years of being one of the best racers in the world.

You wouldn’t think that there’s much more he could accomplish, but 2018 has become another banner year for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. He’s won two races in the 2018 IndyCar season, making him third on IndyCar’s all-time wins list.

He enters this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 as the championship leader. He’s two podium finishes shy of 100. A documentary on his life will be released this fall. And last month, he even competed on NBC‘s American Ninja Warrior.

Some might call it a renaissance. Others might call it business as usual for Dixon. But while some of his peers are retiring and the league is changing, the New Zealander is still one of the best in the world at what he does, and one of the best people off the track.

When going through Scott’s already busy 2018, one must start with asking how he became the latest IndyCar driver — after Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden — to take on American Ninja Warrior.

“The way that it started was, NBC are partners with the Verizon IndyCar Series,” Dixon told FanSided after his run in the show’s Indianapolis City Qualifiers. “It’s something that I’ve always watched a lot of .. .and then when I went through a little bit of training with the community here in Indianapolis, everyone was pretty friendly and cool.

“I thought it would be fun to go on,” he continued, “but then I also quickly realized how damn difficult it was!”

Complicating matters slightly was that Scott’s Ninja Warrior run was scheduled at the end of April, a month before he was due to drive in the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Was he at all concerned that an injury on the obstacle course could hamper his plans for the biggest race of the season?

“It did become a bit of a issue with [team owner] Chip [Ganassi], actually,” he laughed. “It seemed like he was fine to start with and then when we did the press release, he’s like ‘I don’t remember seeing anything about this, I’m not sure I want you doing it.’

“But I feel like that one, the training you could probably hurt yourself. There is always something that you can do — whether it’s your normal training when I’m running, cycling, at the gym. I think the way it’s set up is pretty good. You can only fall in water and the obstacles around you, if you’re going to hit them, are pretty well barricaded with foam.”

It turns out there was no reason to worry. While Scott didn’t complete the American Ninja Warrior course despite a superb effort, he came off the course perfectly fine and went on to finish third at the Indy 500.

Indianapolis was also where he premiered the teaser trailer for Born Racer, a new documentary that will take motorsports fans inside Scott’s career, his life and his family with an up close and personal perspective audiences have never had before. The film doesn’t have an official release date yet, but is expected later in 2018.

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It was a change of pace for Scott Dixon, who may be one of the elite racers in history but has never sought the spotlight. Even as the active driver with the most IndyCar titles, he’s always focused on racing and living his life, and the media attention is just a side effect. So how did it feel to now be on television and the star of his own movie?

“I don’t really sign up for things like that,” Scott reflected. “The documentary film aspect has been thrown about for many years, and a lot of it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for us. Then this one came around. The people we’d kind of heard about, and the other projects they’ve worked on, and the premise for what they were trying to get out there made a lot more sense.

“And then my wife [Emma] was like, ‘You really should do this, I think it would be good for yourself, but also for IndyCar and racing in general,'” he continued. “I’ve seen maybe three or four cuts and I think they’ve done a really good job.

“Even for me, when I first saw it, I was like wow. I’m in the car but I never get to see how the people react while the racing is going on. The people I work with really closely and also away from the track — you can get a lot of info behind the scenes. It’s pretty interesting.”

Movie and TV appearances aside, Dixon still has a job to do. There are just seven races left in the 2018 IndyCar season, and he has a 45-point lead over Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. Of those seven upcoming tracks, Scott owns at least one victory at four of them and has finished on the podium at six.

But precedent is just a nice statistic to the veteran, who knows very well how tough the fight will be to capture a fifth championship. “The Verizon IndyCar Series right now, the competition level is through the roof,” he said. “So if you miss by a little bit, you’re going to miss big time.”

One of the aces up his sleeve is the phenomenal pit crew members who work on the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Scott’s pit stops have been so fast that they’ve allowed him to leapfrog other cars, and the team also won this year’s Pit Stop Competition at the Indianapolis 500.

Scott hasn’t been shy about giving credit to his pit crew and told FanSided how integral they are to his success. “They’re just good people and I think it’s focus,” he explained. “Even after each stop, the guys will go back behind the timing stand and look at video to see if they can better what’s going on. We have an electric pit stop car at the workshop.

“It’s a team sport. Any area you can gain an advantage, or at least not lose anything, is a big deal—with the strategy, pit stops, the car itself. They have been on fire.”

Scott Dixon
Scott DIxon drives the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda during the Dual in Detroit. Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski/Courtesy of IndyCar. /

By the end of the 2018 IndyCar season, Scott Dixon will have run more than 260 IndyCar Series races. He’s spent 15 years in the league, all of them with Chip Ganassi Racing. Yet for him, it may as well be starting completely over.

He’s got a new car, a new primary sponsor in PNC Bank and a new teammate in Ed Jones. Last season’s IndyCar Rookie of the Year joined Ganassi this season, replacing Tony Kanaan in the No. 10 car while Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton departed for Carlin, scaling back the number of cars in the team’s garage from four to two.

“It has been a big change,” Scott said of the reduction in cars and the shift in roster. “I’ve really enjoyed the four-car teams, just from the fact there was so much information and the other teammates were a lot of fun.

“With Ed and I it’s probably more relaxed, but I do miss looking at all the data and information. Different views from different teammates throughout a weekend can be really beneficial. But I think the core group of people Chip has, has everybody a little more refocused in some areas and enabled us to get to where we need to be in some of the development areas.

“When you have more cars, things take longer. Instead of making four changes to two cars, you have to make eight to 12 changes to four cars, so it can slow some of the things down. This year has been a different dynamic, and one that’s been missed in some areas.”

For all this uncharted territory — the new opportunities, the additional spotlight, the new team and the new car — Scott Dixon remains the same. He’s one of the most talented drivers on the grid, but he has married that with an unquestionable work ethic and a deep passion for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

He’s one of IndyCar’s best-known figures, and with good reason; he’s an athlete that anyone can look up to, with how he carries himself both on and off the track. He’s an honorable driver, a solid teammate and individual, and an excellent ambassador because he loves IndyCar as much as the fans do. What is it about the Verizon IndyCar Series that Scott Dixon is so passionate about?

“I think the variety here is very unique. You have to be good at different disciplines. You have to be good at short or super-speedways, street courses — there’s no other championship like that,” Dixon explained. “I love the change, the competition, and what they’ve created as far as the car right now. It’s just been no bad teams, no bad drivers.

“I think for me it’s always been the drive, just trying to win and trying to beat your fellow teams,” he reflected. “Stats are something you can look at, and you’re hopefully happy with when you leave the sport or move onto something else, but what it really comes down to is that we’re in the business of winning. If you’re not winning, that’s something to change.”

There’s no denying that Dixon knows how to win. He’s been doing it for a decade and a half, and that’s just in IndyCar. He’s accomplished everything that many racers only dream of. Winning is something he’s familiar with, but only because he’s earned it.

Now his sights are set on a fifth IndyCar title, an Iowa victory and new challenges in front of him. Whether it’s on the racetrack or off, as a driver or a representative of his sport or now even a ninja, there’s no doubt that Dixon is a champion — and he’s not done yet.

Next: Stefan Wilson's IndyCar career about more than racing

Don’t miss Scott Dixon in the Iowa Corn 300 this Sunday, July 8 at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. For complete coverage of the 2018 IndyCar season, follow the Motor Sports category at FanSided.