Scott Dixon is reaching legendary status in American open-wheel racing. With 40 victories - one in CART, 39 in Indy Car - he is fourth all-time behind the likes of A.J. Foyt (67), Mario Andretti (52) and Michael Andretti (42).
Dixon’s 40th - Sept. 4 in the Grand Prix at the Glen in Watkins Glen, N.Y. - broke a tie with Al Unser Sr.
Indeed, Dixon is in elite company. He seems to find it almost hard to believe.
“It’s obviously nice to hear that come up, and with each win it’s kind of talked about a little bit more,” said Dixon, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing. “For me, it still feels a bit strange, to be honest. I think when you look at the list of names - A.J. Foyt and Andretti and then Unser and the likes of those, and a Dixon in there, too, it’s strange.
“Obviously, I feel very thankful, too. But I hope it’s something we can continue to build on as well.”
Dixon this weekend will try for win No. 41 when he competes in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which he won in 2015. Among his competition will be 2016 Long Beach and IndyCar series champion Simon Pagenaud, as well as Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais won the IndyCar series opener March 12 at St. Petersburg, and won at Long Beach three consecutive years from 2005-07 when the main event was Champ Car.
IndyCar, as a whole, is stacked, so Dixon knows continuing to climb the wins ladder won’t be easy.
“Michael (Andretti), for sure,” Dixon said, when asked if it is his goal to overtake the other three. “Mario’s still get a pretty good stretch there. And the competition these days in the Verizon IndyCar series is through the roof, so each win is definitely a big deal.”
Ganassi is convinced Dixon’s ascent will continue.
“I have complete confidence that Scott can continue to win races at a high level for a lot longer,” he said. “He is still a young guy and nothing Scott Dixon does on the track surprises me. He still has a lot more wins in him.”
Dixon is a Hall of Fame driver in waiting, and not just because of all the race wins. He’s also won four IndyCar series championships, as well as the Indianapolis 500 in 2008. Dixon won his second series title that year in ultra-impressive fashion, winning six of 19 races along the way.
It was a banner season, in more ways than one.
“Yeah, it was a big year in a lot of ways,” said Dixon, of New Zealand. “I actually got married in February, we won the 500 in May, we won the championship in October and then my wife also got pregnant in October. So it was a crazy year on many counts.
“But the racing side, it was just one of those years that everything just flowed.”
Dixon said even if the team was having an off day, it would find a way to make something happen and get good points. That’s part of what it takes to win, as well.
“I think a lot of it’s about relationships, the team relationships, the owner relationship,” said Dixon, who is in his 16th season with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ganassi can’t say enough about Dixon.
“Scott’s career has been nothing short of phenomenal since the day it started,” he said. “He has truly established himself as one of the all-time greats, but he has also done it with an understated level of class and confidence that is rare to see.”
Pagenaud, of France, won his first series title in 2016. He pays Dixon the ultimate compliment.
“He’s a tremendous racer, certainly that one guy that you always think is going to be in the championship,” said Pagenaud, who races for rival Team Penske. “And, you know, he’s a benchmark, too. Him and (Penske teammate Will) Power are the two guys you really look at, knowing that if you’re ahead of them, you know you’re doing a good job.
“They always give a hundred percent and their hundred percent is better than anyone else.”
At 36, Dixon knows Father time will soon catch up to him. He said at age 40, it might be time for him to “race something else.” But when he looks at some of the other drivers in the series older than him, he knows he can remain a force for some time.
“Even if you look at the likes of Helio (Castroneves), T.K. (Tony Kanaan), (Juan Pablo) Montoya, those guys are still super competitive,” Dixon said. “That definitely helps.”
Castroneves and Montoya are both 41, Kanaan is 42. Montoya won’t be in Long Beach, as he is racing in just the Indy 500 for Team Penske this season. But Dixon will be going against Castroneves and Kanaan, as well as Power, who won in Long Beach in 2008 and has 29 career wins.