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Scott Dixon: From Back to Front(Part One)

Written by Cameron Gale, Edited by Sameena Khan

Scott Dixon racing New Zealand Formula Ford at Manfield Circuit. Image Credit: Geoff Ridder

Scott Dixon has won multiple series, including the renowned IndyCar (which he has won three times). He's also won the Daytona 24 hours and the Indianapolis 500, but his career wasn't always like this.


Early Years

He first developed his love for racing at age seven when his parents bought him a kart, and soon after, he'd caught the attention of the New-Zealand public. In 1994, he won the Formula Vee series in New Zealand and 1995, he won Formula Ford Class Two series, winning thirteen out of fourteen races. Dixon then went on to win the New Zealand Formula Ford championship in 1996/97.


1997

In 1997, Dixon stopped racing as he didn't have enough money. However, businessman Christopher Wingate provided Dixon and his mentor, Kiwi racing hero Kenny Smith, money and airfares across New Zealand and Australia. This ensured that his racing career wouldn't be limited to his country. Dixon then finished third in the 1997 Australian Drivers' championship and won the Rookie of the Year Award. This resulted in the top team SH Racing offering him a contract. Due to his budget for the season increasing by $250,000, Wingate suggested creating a company to fund his motor racing career. This was called Scott Dixon Motorsport ( SDMS), funded by shareholders who would invest more than $1 million in Dixon over the coming years.


1999

In 1999, Dixon moved to the United States after a test in Sebring (where he broke the track record on only his eighth lap). Undoubtedly, teams were impressed by Dixon's pace, and Johansson Motorsport (racing in Indy lights then) soon signed him. He then began a long management association with the team's owner, taking the pole position for the Chicago oval race, which he won. Again, he was consistent throughout the year. Still, due to the car's unreliability, he had five DNFs, limiting him to fifth in the championship.


2000

In 2000 Dixon remained in Indy lights, moving to the PacWest team. Again, he showed the pace he was capable of by taking the championship with six wins and seven podium finishes.

Scott Dixon number 17 at the 2000 Long Beach Grand Prix. Image Credit: Jason Bright

Champ Car Career

PacWest Racing moved him to its CART (Champ Car) team. Dixon immediately outperformed his teammate, former Formula One driver Mauricio Gugelmin. Dixon led his first race in Mexico for fourteen laps; two races later, he secured his only win in Champ Car at the Nazareth Speedway. At the age of twenty, he became the youngest Champ Car winner. Dixon scored points in 11 out of his 20 starts and completed the most laps in the FedEx Champ Car series, completing 2,521 out of a possible 2,610. He finished eighth in the championship and later won the Jim Trueman trophy for rookie of the year.


2002

In 2002 Dixon remained with PacWest, owned by Bruce McCaw. Still, it became clear that the team was low on funds due to the Dot Com Crash (when investors pumped money into Internet-based startups in the late 1990s). When the team collapsed, Toyota arranged the introduction of Chip Ganassi Racing, adding a third car to accommodate Dixon's talent. It was his first experience in a true front-running team with Toyota's top engine supplier. Dixon posted 12 top-ten finishes, including a second place at Denver.

Scott Dixon Nazareth during the 2001 race. Image Credit: Phillip Abbot

Indycar Career


2003

In 2003 Chip Ganassi collaborated with Penske and Andretti-Green racing to compete in the all oval Indy Racing League. Dixon won the season opener at Homestead, however, a tangle with sting Kanaan in Japan left Dixon with a shattered hand. Nevertheless, he returned and won two more races, thus claiming the championship on his first attempt. Additionally, he set the record for most consecutive laps led (334) making him the first driver to lead consecutive laps in three successive races. At Pikes Peak he led the last 84 laps to achieve a win, then he led every lap at Richmond and at Kansas he led the first 53 laps. Although it was his first year in the Indy Racing League, and he had won the championship, he was not eligible for Rookie of the Year due to his experience in ChampCar.


At the end of the season, Ganassi recruited Tony Renna as Dixon’s teammate. The two drivers became friends, but sadly, Renna had a high-speed crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was killed instantly.


2004-2005

By 2004 the Toyota engine had lost its edge over the competition, meaning Dixon was unable to defend his title. Over the 32 races in the 2004 and 2005 season, Dixon only managed to achieve two podiums, including a second-place finish and a single win. He also tested for the Williams F1 team and finished 10th in the International Race of Champions whilst representing the Indy Racing League. In 2005, Dixon and his Ganassi teammates, Ryan Briscoe and Darren Manning, were struggling. They wrote off a total of 28 cars in a long series of crashes. Manning was fired, whereas Briscoe narrowly avoided a serious injury after his car became airborne, and slammed into the outside wall of Chicagoland’s third turn, after touching another car. Despite the rumours about Dixon potentially losing his seat, he proved the critics wrong and claimed a win at Watkins Glen International (Ganassi’s first win since 2003). Dixon then re-signed for a further two seasons with the team.


2006-2009

As the Toyota engine was no longer the best, Ganassi switched to Honda for the 2006 season. This season, Dixon partnered with rising star Dan Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner. Before the season started, they competed with Casey Mears in the Daytona 24 hours and won. Once the Indycar season had started, Dixon managed to get his first win at Watkins Glen and became the first driver to win an Indycar race in wet conditions. At Nashville, he won the Gibson Guitar Trophy, only a few car lengths from Wheldon. He finished fourth in the standings, a mere 15 points behind his teammate.


Dixon finished runner-up to Darlo Franchitti in the 2007 season. They were both fighting for the win and, subsequently, the championship. Still, Dixon ran out of fuel at the last corner, giving Franchitti the championship. Dixon managed to get 10 out of the 17 podiums available during the season, of which four were wins.


In 2008 Dixon won the IndyCar Championship after winning the Indy 500, getting 12 podiums out of 19 and 6 wins. However, he was not allowed to compete in the Long Beach Grand Prix as the event was for teams and drivers who hadn’t competed in the 2007 IndyCar season or teams in champ car. Dixon had competed in the 2007 season.


Dixon couldn’t defend his championship in 2009 and lost out to teammate Dario Franchitti, who had returned to Indycar after spending a season in NASCAR. Nevertheless, Dixon claimed second in the championship, one point ahead of Ryan Briscoe.

Dario Franchitti #10 leads Scott Dixon #9 at Homestead Miami Speedway. Image Credit: Andy Sallee


1 comment

1 Comment


Guest
Dec 03, 2022

This is a very impressive and well researched article. Well done Cameron.

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