Scott Dixon remembers winning his first IndyCar race more than two decades ago, when the only thing he cared about was keeping his job, and the idea of someday mentioning his name in the same breath as AJ Foyt, Unser Family and Mario Andretti as was. seemed ridiculous.
“There are some numbers that are achievable,” Dixon explained, “but I think when you look at the Uncers as well, Mario, this game can be super tricky. You’re out in it one minute and the next. can.”
Even after all these years, Dixon is still in it.
Also near the top of it.
Dixon ended a 22-race winless stretch – an insane eternity by his standards – when he resumed pole sitter Colton Herta late to win Sunday’s return to the road course in Toronto. It was Dixon’s 52nd victory in the series, but his first with Chip Ganassi Racing, and it moved him into a tie with Andretti, second on the career list.
Foyt is the only one left ahead of him, although Dixon also admitted that his 67 wins could never be touched.
“Probably for him to run well into my 50s,” said Dixon, who turns 42 on Friday. “It’s tough. The competition is really tough right now. Even good luck pulling strategies – if you’re having a bad day, winning with weird precautions and stuff like that – it gets pretty tough Because there are so many good teams now. You have a field of 25 or 27 every week that they must be thinking of the same ultimate strategy.
This was not necessarily the case in 2001, when the 20-year-old New Zealander made his debut for the long-discontinued PacWest Racing in Mexico. He led 14 laps in Monterrey that day, foreshadowing his day only two races later, when he became the youngest winner at CART – the predecessor of IndyCar – and finished eighth in the standings.
Dixon joined Ganassi’s team the following year, winning his first championship in 2003 and never slowing down: He won five more, most recently in 2020, with the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and more close calls too many to count.
It also included this year’s edition, when he started on pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and led a race-high 95 laps before hopes of a second win fell through. He put his tires in a pit stop on lap 25 from the end, was forced to make a drive-thru penalty for the mistake and his milk-soaked dreams ended in despair.
Making it worse? It continued a winless streak that extended until the May 2021 race in Texas, and as more weeks passed, critics and cynics began to wonder whether “The Iceman” still had the chance to win in IndyCar. Goods for.
“There are definitely people who keep talking about it, which gets a little frustrating,” Dixon admitted. “It’s not like that changes anything. We’re still the same process, trying just as hard. Again, I think in this game you always think of those close misses that were more than the actual wins.” . Can be a little sad in some ways too.”
There was nothing to be sad about on Sunday.
Seeing his family, and after a turbulent week in the Ganassi garage, Dixon spent almost the entire day running to the front. And when a caution flag flew 18 laps from the finish, and Herta thought she had a chance, Dixon quickly dashed it, opening a huge lead on the restart on the bumpy, challenging circuit at Exhibition Place.
“He’s a great guy off the track, very respected, but I really care how he is on the track,” said 22-year-old Herta, who was still in diapers when Dixon won his first IndyCar race. “He never puts you in a crappy situation where you have to choose to hit a wall or pass out or something like that. He’s always been fair to me, which I respect, because some people hasn’t, especially when you’re in the series for the first time.
Maybe because Dixon remembers being one of those young people from a long time ago.
“He is like the ultimate role model for young drivers,” said Felix Rosenquist, 30, who finished third on Sunday. “I mean, I don’t know how old he is now, but just shows that if you want something, you can do it. No matter how old or how bad your season, if You can always come back if you want it bad.”
Dixon proved on Sunday that he definitely wants it. The win in Toronto gave him 18 straight years with at least one, and his fifth top-5 finish this season moved him to fifth in the championship chase with seven races to go.
“We have loads of top-5s, but they’re not going to win you the championship. We’re in the business of winning, right?” He asked. “That’s where the disappointment comes in. You miss the close. Indy is a good example, a good example for many years. It’s a team effort. I made a huge mistake this year. Definitely a disappointment. I think you start getting hit from the bottom up a little bit.
“When you’re on a roll,” Dixon continued, “you think it happens, it’s easy, stuff like that. You probably don’t really respect it that much. There are fewer points. In my career There have been times when you really have to respect the game. When it comes, you are extremely happy about it.”
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