Scott Dixon, last year's champion, took time out during a recent test at Phoenix International Raceway to talk with me about his most recent championship triumph, as well as his expectations for the year ahead.
Scott Dixon Interview
Dominik Wilde: Last year really was a remarkable year for you. Rolex 24 Hour win, Long Beach Grand Prix win, pole at Indianapolis, and an IndyCar championship crown that many wouldn’t have bet on you for – 2015 must be up there as one of your favourite years of your career so far, is it?
Scott Dixon: It was definitely a great year for both myself and the team. Obviously winning the 24 hour race and the championship in IndyCar are both big accomplishments, but I still really wanted to win Indianapolis. It truly is a team effort and I hope we can continue to perform at this level in both series we compete in for years to come.
Dominik Wilde: I mentioned your championship win. Many eyes were on Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal in Sonoma, do you think that gave you an advantage in the championship fight as the pressure was seemingly off, or were you and the team still pushing as hard as ever?
Scott Dixon: I think a lot of people were just focusing on the frontrunners and we had the advantage of just going in and trying to win the race and do everything we could control. It worked out in our favour after winning the race and leading the most laps, and getting it done in the tiebreaker.
Dominik Wilde: The three race wins you got last season moved you one place ahead of Bobby Unser in the all-time American Open Wheel wins table, how does it feel to be in such a club than includes names like Unser, Andretti, and Foyt?
Scott Dixon: It’s certainly nice to be mentioned in the same breath as the top legends in our sport over the years. I’m more focused on the job at hand right now that I have to do for Chip and the team. I guess there will be plenty of time to reflect when I stop racing and look back through the record books. I hope there are still many wins to come for myself and the team.
Dominik Wilde: Now, last year we saw the introduction of aero kits. For fans, there was certainly a greater visual difference between cars, but from a drivers’ perspective what did the introduction of the aero kits do?
Scott Dixon: I think that was something that was definitely considered in terms of differentiating the looks of the cars. The fans seemed to like the changes and we broke some track records last year as a result as well. At the end of the day it’s the same for everyone in terms of the drivers, so you still really have to get the most of the car and get the job done on the track no matter what the formula.
Dominik Wilde: Looking ahead to the 2016 season, a lot has been made of Honda’s aero improvements over the winter, but what has Chevrolet done to keep a hold of their advantage?
Scott Dixon: Chevrolet has been a great partner to work with and they continue to provide great power for us on the team side. I really don’t get caught up in what Chevy has versus what Honda has. I’m focused on the job at hand behind the wheel, and hope we can have continued success together with Chevy entering 2016.
Dominik Wilde: Since the DW12 and the return of engine competition was introduced in 2012 Chevrolet have appeared to be on top, save for your triumph with Honda power back in 2013, do you think that this year the two sides will be more evenly matched?
Scott Dixon: I think that’s really a question for IndyCar. They have the tough task of creating an equal playing field and giving everyone involved a chance to compete and win. Again, my job is to drive the car and provide feedback so we can go out there on race day and get the job done.
Dominik Wilde: This year will also see the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, last year you led the most laps but ultimately missed out – can you talk us through the race from your perspective?
Scott Dixon: I’ve said for years that anything less than a win at Indy is a disappointment. We won the pole and led a lot but it’s never easy leaving IMS without drinking the milk. I think the whole race went fairly well, but we had a few little issues with pulling my tear-offs off, and my head pad came loose. All in all I think the Target car had some pretty good speed. I don’t think I asked for the right changes on the last stop and we had some understeer. When we got back there behind a few cars at the end we couldn’t quite keep the momentum going.
Dominik Wilde: Ganassi cars led more laps than any other team last year in the Indy 500, with Penske your main rivals – do you see this year’s race panning out the same or is it too early to tell?
Scott Dixon: I think it’s too early to tell. You really have to wait to get the month of May going before you can get a good feel as to who the favourites are going to be for the race.
Dominik Wilde: Traditionally the Indy 500 is the first oval race on the calendar but this year that will change with Phoenix re-entering the fray. Will this change anything in the month of May, with teams having that one oval race under their belts before they arrive at Indianapolis?
Scott Dixon: You’d like to think it would help, but Indianapolis is its own animal. The speeds, the setup and the racing are totally different in terms of a one-mile track to a 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Dominik Wilde: Now on a slightly different subject, your team mate and friend Dario Franchitti dabbled in NASCAR a few years back after a successful IndyCar spell, before ultimately returning. Has the stock car scene ever been one that’s tempted you?
Scott Dixon: I think that as a driver you always take a look at the different formulas and think ‘what if’. I’m focused on IndyCar right now and we have a job to do for Target and Chip and the team and hopefully we can continue to do that for some time to come.
Dominik Wilde: Throughout your IndyCar Series career, you’ve only ever been with one team – Chip Ganassi Racing. In sports in general, we’re seeing less and less people staying with a single team throughout their time in a particular sport or series, why do you think this is? And why do you think your time with Ganassi has been as long and as fruitful as it has been?
Scott Dixon: You’re right and I think the only other driver in the series that has been with their team for this amount of time would be Helio and Team Penske. I think Chip and I have just always been on the same page and we’ve been successful, so it’s lasted. He gives you all the tools to win and as a driver you can’t ask for more from a team owner.
Images: IndyCar Media