SCOTT DIXON: 'OPRAH OF TWITTER' AT THE INDY 500
People have been calling me the Oprah of Twitter. I’m not sure where that came from or how it got started, but you might want to check under your chairs just in case.
I’ve been holding trivia contests on Twitter - @scottdixon9 - for fans, with some fun prizes like iPads and Oakley sunglasses and suite passes to Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. They’re small gifts, but people enjoy them. Actually, I think people like answering the questions more than they like the gifts. It’s a fun way to interact with fans on a different level. It’s pretty cool.
On my website I had a contest the past three years asking fans to predict the top three finishers at each race. For three years, race after race, nobody won it. Then three people got it right at Barber Motorsports Park last month.
The person who picked first won a $7,000 watch, so we brought him to the Speedway last week and gave it to him. It was pretty sweet.
I’m not the only one who’s using social media and websites to connect with fans through contests. Ryan Briscoe is treating a fan who guessed closest to his qualifying speed to a weekend at the race, and Tony Kanaan does fan giveaways, too. But for me, it’s a unique and interesting way to connect with people who love racing. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: Without fans, we wouldn’t be here.
And without speed, I wouldn’t be on the front row for Sunday’s race. During the first qualifying attempt on Saturday, I messed up a little bit. The track had changed from the morning practice session, and we missed the balance a little bit. It was very loose in Turn 3. I lifted big-time on my first lap and a little bit on my second. We thought we would have been close to the provisional pole to get into the Fast Nine at that point. Then we just waited through the rain. A lot of us figured it might have been the last time we ran, so it was a bit of a shock that we got back out there after the rain stopped.
It was good that Speedway officials got the track dry and put on the Fast Nine show, because it was definitely good to watch. The track had better conditions, so fans saw higher speeds. We misjudged a little bit by being too conservative. The car was easy to drive and had great speed. The way the car felt, I think we could have almost achieved 228s by ourselves. The car was that good and the weather conditions were that good.
All in all, the first three laps were good. We ran out of fuel in Turn 4, which lost us about seven- or eight-tenths of a mile an hour on the last lap, and that cost us the pole. I think it would have been very close. I was looking at the splits on my steering wheel going into Turn 3 on that last lap, and I was about the same as my best lap on that last lap, which would have been enough to just give us the pole.
But it was great to see Alex Tagliani get the pole. He’s gone through a lot. To put that team together last year and get the pole for the Indianapolis 500 is very special for him. He’s a very emotional guy. It was cool to see him so happy and doing so well.
The whole outlay of what happened in qualifying and who ended up where and which big teams struggled is all quite bizarre. You’ve got single-car teams that are doing a hell of a lot better than the big-time names in this sport. Helio Castroneves is starting 16th. You never would have figured that was going to happen. Briscoe crashed and is starting 27th. Even Will Power is only in the second row. We expected all three of the Penske cars to make a run at the pole. It was a crazy day.
Then you had teams you didn’t expect, like Sarah Fisher Racing and Ed Carpenter, do very well, which was really cool to see. Ed is very good at the Speedway, so that isn’t surprising, but last year the team’s second car didn’t make the race. For them to step it up is a great story. Rightfully I think he should have been around sixth, but they ended up eighth. Still, that’s a hell of a job for a single-car team.
All of this is going to make for a great race. Some the larger teams are much more focused on the race than they are on qualifying, so you’re going to see a lot of cars coming forward during the race, and some going back. There’s no way you could pick a winner at this point.
Anything can still happen, but I like our position. The farther to the front you can start, the better, just to avoid anything that might happen at the start. It will be interesting to see how aggressive Tagliani and Oriol Servia are at the start. Both of those teams did a great job, but I was surprised at the speed that Servia had in the Newman/Haas car. A front-row starting position keeps you out of the mess behind you, and it’s always good to avoid the mess.
Here’s some trivia for you: Who was the last driver to win the Indy 500 from the No. 2 starting position? I’m going to answer this myself - Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s own Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000. I’m taking it as a sign.
Do I get a prize for that?