- The six-time IndyCar champion once drove an F1 car in a one-day test with the Williams team in 2004.
- “I’ve always been very appreciative of what IndyCar is, for driving the car that it is and how raw it is and the competition is great,” says Dixon.
- In his previous 21 seasons, Dixon did not win at least one race per season only twice (2001 and 2004).
Perhaps more than ever, IndyCar has become an attractive lure and alternative in terms of popularity, attention and on-track success for Formula 1 drivers looking to change careers.
This current generation of IndyCar drivers includes several former F1 drivers, including this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato. And at the same time, it has been mentioned that several other current IndyCar drivers could move to F1 in the near future, including Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward.
Even IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti is working to add an F1 team to his large racing stable that already includes teams in IndyCar, Indy Lights, Formula E and Extreme E, IMSA, Australian Supercars and other series.
While he once drove an F1 car in a one-day test with the Williams team in 2004, six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon has long been an observer of what’s going on in F1. He appreciates and understands the series, and even admires it in many ways.
But Dixon also sees the appeal of why F1 drivers come to the US to try their hand at IndyCar racing.
“I’ve always really appreciated what IndyCar is, for driving the car that it is and how raw it is and the competition is great,” Dixon replied when asked. autoweek. “And I think it’s been a big draw for most of the Europeans to come in this direction, knowing that if they go into a small team, that, really, the small teams are gone these days. The budgets are quite considerable for everyone to achieve and operate competitively. So I think that’s been the appeal of them being able to come in and compete fairly with the whole field. And we have seen the success that it has had for many of those who come.”
But IndyCar is still a distant second to F1 in terms of money, television attention, track attendance and overall popularity.
“You know, F1 is still the pinnacle man,” said Dixon. “You look at the total size, the total income, the TV numbers, you know, it’s the prize. As far as purist, loving IndyCar for what it is and how competitive it is and how much fun the cars are and the cool tracks we can go to, I personally prefer IndyCar.
“But then you look at the sheer size and popularity and some of the great machinery that Formula 1 has, you know that’s a different topic. I was lucky enough to drive one of them in the early 2000s. But yeah, that’s a tough question to answer, I think so and no, I don’t know. That’s a tough one.”
Dixon has been racing IndyCar since he was 20 years old. He will turn 42 on July 22 and is in his 22nd year in the series.
Asked hypothetically, when he and team owner Chip Ganassi decided to part ways, would he consider giving F1 a chance, even at an advanced age, Dixon laughed and then joked:
“I don’t know who would be more crazy, the F1 team or myself. That’s a pretty big hypothesis. For me, it all comes down to my pure love of racing. So if there was an opportunity that was hard to turn down, you know, turned down, of course, I’d have a chance. But I love what I’m doing.”
Admittedly, it has been a somewhat difficult campaign for Dixon so far in 2022, as he is winless in the first eight races of the 17-race calendar, with just one podium finish. He is currently sixth in the drivers’ standings, 69 points behind series leader and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500 Marcus Ericsson.
Indeed, IndyCar is enjoying one of the closest championship battles it has ever seen, with just 97 points separating the top 11 drivers heading into this weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Asked if he ever remembers a closer championship race at this point in the season, Dixon replied: “Probably not. It’s been a bit of a strange year, where typically at this point, there’s been a runaway at some point, whether it’s one or two drivers or a big gap.
“I think with the way these weekends are and how easy it is to qualify in the front one weekend and then qualify in the back the next weekend, it really mixes up, which is great from the prospect of going all the way. But yeah, it’s a little crazy, considering how every person probably sees the year and it hasn’t gone as well as they hoped.
“No one has had a super quiet year. Look at Joseph (Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden). He has won three races and is not even leading the points (he is currently third, 32 points behind Ericsson).
With nine races remaining, Dixon hopes to extend one of the most impressive parts of his career: In his previous 21 seasons, he didn’t win at least one race per season only twice (2001 and 2004).
That’s why he’s looking forward to this nine-race summer stretch. Nobody has to tell him what’s at stake and why getting back on track with multiple wins would help him potentially win his seventh IndyCar championship, tying him with the legendary AJ Foyt for most IndyCar titles.
“We have to (get going), I guess, is the obvious answer,” Dixon laughed. “I was hoping the Indy 500 would be that spin and kick that we needed. Yes, it has been an interesting year, with many ups and downs and some missed opportunities.
“As a group and as a team, we just haven’t been doing the job. So, we’ll keep, we’ll keep after that. Fortunately, Marcus (Ericsson) has had a fantastic run leading the points at the moment, Alex (Palou) has been a bit unlucky. And just hoping that the whole team, we can put our heads down here and fight for another championship for Chip.”
While Dixon said he still plans to race for several more years for Ganassi, rumors have recently circulated that he has been offered a leadership role with rival organization Arrow McLaren SP once he retires.
Dixon denied those reports, saying he plans to stay with Ganassi until the end of his career, never mind many more seasons.
“I haven’t been a part of any of these conversations,” Dixon said flatly. “So I’m not quite sure where a lot of this stuff comes from. Obviously, people talk. I even got some messages from people asking about the same thing. But if people are having these conversations, I haven’t been a part of them.
“So for me, I love doing what I’m doing. I love being part of the team I’m with. Who knows what comes in the future. But as of now, we’re just focusing on this season and that’s all I have to say. In fact. there is nothing like that.
Asked if he had thought about his post-racing career and what he would like to do, Dixon demurred again.
“It’s hard to really comment,” he said. “I think for me, I don’t see giving up any time soon. I feel that in motorsport it is difficult to make the decision from one year to the next instead of looking at five years or more. … The possibilities after it’s over, trust me, I’d love to still be a part of the sport.
“What that means and in what capacity, I really have no idea. But I love sports. It’s been my passion since I was five or six years old. So it’s definitely something I want to be a part of for many years to come, but as of now, it’s not on my radar.”
To follow autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski
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