By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
It might’ve not been the prettiest final few races for Scott Dixon, but after locking up his sixth Astor Cup in last Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he added another noble honor to his ongoing legacy.
That honor being winning the series championship wire-to-wire (14 races) which isn’t easy whatsoever in any major racing discipline aside for maybe Formula One. We saw Juan Pablo Montoya come close in 2015 until a tangle with Will Power at Sonoma cost him that opportunity.
Who won the championship that year? Well, none other than Dixon via a tiebreaker because of his third victory over Montoya’s two.
The newly crowned six-time series champion set the tone right out of the gate by winning the first three rounds and hasn’t really looked back on what is a historic championship trail.
Yes, ever since the Indianapolis 500 where he got snookered by Takuma Sato, his runs weren’t anywhere near dominant, but that strong first half was still good enough to lock up the title over St. Pete winner Josef Newgarden by 13 points.
Dixon said after winning the championship that winning the title in this pandemic plagued year was weird but credited a large majority of his his latest accomplishment to his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crew.
At the end of the day, Dixon’s wire-to-wire championship campaign did come down to his entire race team for not just providing him strong cars right out of the gate and keeping Dixon focused during the rough late season stretch.
Let’s face it, there’s so much a driver can do to make a team superb, but a collaborative effort is as important which Dixon rightfully acknowledges.
“As a team we didn’t really change anything. Some people think a bit of complacency,” said Dixon. “I think you do start to overanalyze things a little bit.”
Some people would say Dixon having an Alain Prost approach where points grabbing was as important over wins, but judging on his tone, it wasn’t really the case because he still has that ‘win or nothing’ vibe.
To this day, Dixon is still upset about his mistake riddled doubleheader at Mid-Ohio, but it’s just part of the weird ride at the end of the day. When you’re that damn good like the 40-year-old has been for nearly two decades, can you blame his recent frustrations? Not at all.
“I think we had a bit of a curve ball I think at Mid-Ohio, which was tough for us,” said Dixon. “We think it was something that was out of our control in qualifying one and qualifying two was fine, I come to push the envelope too much and made mistake myself, which I try to pride myself on not making those mistakes, but I definitely made that mistake.
“I think every season is full of ups and downs. It’s the first time I’ve ever led a championship from start to finish. You do have some different pressures, where you have people saying, It’s all done, it’s sewn up. You don’t want to fall into that situation, but then you start to believe some of those things. We’ve seen how quickly it transforms and how quickly it can change, especially with the likes of Team Penske and Josef. He’s a two-time champion and a hell of a competitor.”
As many wins and championships Dixon has, he better than anyone else knows how hard is to win championships in IndyCar. Further emphasizing the importance of teamwork because it wasn’t just his No. 9 crew who got the job done, Dixon recognizes his teammates Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist playing a role on Ganassi’s success this season.
“I guess every weekend is its own battle. It’s very easy to slip into a bit of a rut. You lose a bit of confidence as a driver, the team loses a bit of confidence if there’s been a mistake on pit road or strategy-wise. You have to snap out of it. That’s the hardest thing to do.” said Dixon.
“I truly believe years like ’04 and ’05 where we were just sucking really bad, those are the years I learnt the most. It’s all about the amazing people around all of us. We work well as a team. Even Dario and what he brings to the team, to help with Felix for my teammates, Marcus and Felix, it’s been a huge year for all of us. It’s really knowing how to manage those moments when you’re pretty down.”
It won’t change anytime soon because his mind is already onto 2021 where he’ll be looking to accomplish three things:
Seek Indy 500 redemption and finally get a second Borg Warner Trophy, his first back-to-back championship effort, and the biggest one of them all, equaling A.J. Foyt as Indy car racing’s greatest champion with seven.
For now, if you’re not convinced that Dixon is one of American open wheel racing’s greatest drivers, but also Chip Ganassi being an elite car owner, this season should change your minds. Their sixth title together will go down as one of his most impressive ones and should expect them to keep on swinging.