WHAT MAKES SCOTT DIXON TICK?
f Scott Dixon didn’t already exist, you
probably couldn’t invent him. In an era
where a professional athlete’s value is
measured in part by their potential for
social media ubiquity, there shouldn’t be
much space for someone who can turn up,
beat everyone without looking like he’s
done anything spectacular, and then
willingly fade into the background. Nothing
about Dixon lends itself easily to a GIF.
The four-time IndyCar Series champ is
understatement embodied. In his racecar,
he’s all stealthy efficiency; outside of it,
he’s different things to different people –
loyal and intelligent with a rapier wit to
those who know him; obscured by an
amiable inscrutability to those who don’t.
The numbers tell a clearer story: those
four titles, fifth on IndyCar’s all-time win
list, one Indy 500 win accompanied by a
few near-misses. And yet he’s a driver
who you define not by his peaks, but by
his consistency. He hasn’t finished outside
the top four in the championship for a
decade. In 15 top-level seasons – two in
CART, 13 in IndyCar – he’s only gone
winless twice. And 192 of his 215 career
starts have been for Target Chip Ganassi
Racing. But all of that comes served with
a side-helping of laid-back humility that
has made him one of the most
underappreciated drivers among fans.
“Dixon isn’t flash,” says close friend and
former teammate Dario Franchitti. “He just
doesn’t do flash, in the car or out of it.”
His ability to keep the world at a
distance when he’s away from the track
might be one of the keys to his sustained
performance. Where Will Power has
spoken of sleepless nights after difficult
weekends, and Franchitti has admitted to
keeping a notepad next to his bed, there’s
a sense that Dixon has an off-switch, and
he’s not afraid to use it.
“If he does worry about things, he’s
bloody good at hiding it,” says Franchitti.
“He clearly thinks about racing a lot,
because nobody is that successful
without it being your life. But he does
have an ability to switch off, and he does
have an ability to make it look effortless,
which is really annoying! It can wear you
down if you’re fighting against him.”
Dixon himself believes that the
different perspectives brought about by
fatherhood have taught him to deal with
“Having kids definitely changed the
dynamic,” he says. “If you have a crappy
race, it’s a good way to switch off when
you get home – see what they’ve been up
to for the weekend, play with some
Barbies, maybe a Ken doll here and there.
And [wife] Emma is very competitive;
probably more competitive than myself. If
I have a bad weekend, I can forget about
it much quicker than she does, and she’ll
keep asking questions. That keeps me
competitive as well, but I can also switch
off and say, ‘Hey, let’s stop talking about
that and move on to next week.’”
All that said, Dixon’s record suggests
that bad weekends are relatively rare,
and drilling into the reasons for that is
where things get more complicated. His
work ethic is widely touted: during his
own driving career, long-time manager
Stefan Johansson was a teammate to
both Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in
Formula 1, and notes that Dixon shows
a similar level of application.
“Maybe they had a little more ability
than anyone else,” he says. “But they still
put in 10, 15 percent more work, and
that’s what makes the difference”.
Another of the bedrocks is the team
environment at Ganassi, where strong
personal friendships are accompanied by
high expectations and accountability.
“It’s a different culture to what I was
used to at Andretti Green,” says Franchitti.
“At Andretti there was a wee bit more
leeway when you had a bad result; I guess
it was a more coddled environment.
Ganassi’s a lovely group of guys, but
they’re racers, and they let you get away
with nothing. They think the world of
Scott, but they keep pushing him, and he’s
learned to keep pushing them, too.”
The latter point is significant, because
asserting his authority within a team wasn’t
something that came naturally to Dixon.
“He always had somebody else doing it
for him,” says Franchitti. “Dan [Wheldon]
was there doing it, I was there doing it, and
now he’s learned to do it in a constructive
way, and it’s really impressive to see.”
2012 2009 2013 2010 2014 2011 2015
Chip Ganassi Racing moved Dixon across
from CART into IndyCar in 2003, and he
responded by winning the title first time out.
things look effortless. It
can wear you down if you’re
fighting against him”
KANAAN TONY KANAAN