Scott Dixon has had a lot of changes to deal with this year. Engine manufacturer change, loss of his long-time primary sponsor, and a film crew following the normally private New Zealander. He has taken comfort in the familiarity of ranking near the top of the championship points race though, having won the ultimate prize in 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2015. He finds himself P2 right now and as it relates to demonstrating the competitiveness of the Verizon IndyCar Series, Dixon likes that everything is as close as it is,
“This is how you want the championship… (have it) come down to the last race. As long as we finish ahead of Newgarden we should be good.”
This is true if Dixon wins, but finishing P2 or worse (even with Newgarden behind him) puts everything up in the air for the New Zealand native. Those results would open the door for Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power. But the four-time champion has been here before and if the stress of it all does get to him, he’s not showing it,
“We’ve been in this situation many times before. The team does well under pressure but things can happen out of our control. We have to eliminate the many small things that could cause error, so hopefully we roll off the truck in good shape.”
At one point during our interview, Helio actually walked through the room and said jokingly, “You get nervous. You know you do…” Dixon cracked a smile at the playful teasing but said, “I don’t know where he’s getting that!”
I love those moments – the playfulness we get to see between drivers. The respect is apparent and they wouldn’t goof around with each other if they didn’t like one another. It’s a nice thing to see in any sport. I personally think the fighting and rivalries we see in other series and sports (whether real or contrived) are boring. And frankly, many of them come off as immature and desperate for ratings.
Dixon, who has rolled into victory lane three times at Sonoma Raceway (2007, 2014, 2015), further proved this mutual respect in the IndyCar paddock when he spoke about that driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevy, one of the four guys that could stand between him and a historic 5th championship,
“Helio? He has really good hair… (insert laughter from everyone here)… We’ve had our ups and downs through the years but he’s a hell of a competitor. Always in the championship hunt. The drive from him… He doesn’t know how to sit still. These are the guys that inspire you. Hell of a guy, even though we are opposite personalities.”
The relationships between driver and driver, driver and crew, and driver and team owner are a complicated web. Within the next year or so however, we should be getting a closer look at the details of those dynamics when the documentary film on Dixon gets released to audiences. Given my own involvement in film – studying it in college and being a member of the selection committee for the Cleveland International Film Fest – I asked Dixon about the experience of being the subject of a film,
“It’s been as good an experience as any, and like anything, there are days you don’t want to deal with it but overall it’s been good.”
He gelled with the crew and that made everything easier. “I’m looking forward to seeing it myself!” admitted Dixon, “…the interviews with other people, hearing what makes Chip tick… and they actually went deep with some of my crew guys, so it should be interesting.”
I look forward to checking out the film as well and hope to see it get a wide-release, making it accessible to race fans and lovers-of-film across the country and more than likely, internationally. I will certainly keep you updated as post-production continues and we get more details about its completion and release date. I’ve been enamored with this whole thing since it was announced in May, so trust that I’ll be keeping tabs!
You know who else is keeping tabs? Dixon. On each step of his season that has led him to where he is now – second in the championship points battle as we kick off the GoPro Grand Prix finale weekend at Sonoma Raceway here in California. It might surprise you, but he’s a little disappointed with how 2017 has gone. He feels they should have won St. Pete, Long Beach, and Texas, and admits that they were looking for a strong second half of the Indianapolis 500 but his spectacular accident with Jay Howard kept that plan at bay.
I’d be writing a very different story today if any of those four events would have gone Dixon’s way. While the results did not show the speed of the No. 9 crew, they are treating this weekend the same as every other race, similar to the comments we heard from Newgarden, and doing the best they can to get the most out of the 4-day stretch in wine country.
The ultimate goal is obvious of course: An historic 5th IndyCar Series Championship. Only the great A.J. Foyt has earned more than that, with a whopping 7 titles to his name. Foyt earned his fifth championship exactly 50 years ago in 1967. Now Dixon stands on the precipice of history. And if he were to achieve it, what a great ending it would make for this story… or say, a film.