CHAMPCAR/CART: Scott Dixon to drive for PacWest

(Indianapolis, IN) -- PacWest Racing Group has confirmed that young New Zealand driver Scott Dixon will pilot the ...

(Indianapolis, IN) -- PacWest Racing Group has confirmed that young New Zealand driver Scott Dixon will pilot the #18 PacWest Toyota Reynard on a full-time basis in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series.

A six-time Indy Lights winner in 2000, the signing of Dixon is an investment in the team's long-term future, according to team owner, Bruce R. McCaw. Dixon is set to be the youngest driver in the 2001 title chase at 20 years of age.

"We decided to invest in an Indy Lights operation four years ago in an effort to create our own breeding ground for future Champ Car drivers," said McCaw. "There is little doubt that Scott is a very talented young driver who has the ability to go on to great things in this sport."

"I think he has learned a lot this past season and I am sure he will develop and mature as both a driver and person with our experienced team of professionals around him this coming year," McCaw continued. "He did the job required in a two-day test at Laguna Seca earlier in the 2000 season and that gave him a taste of what's to come."

Dixon, who will be the first New Zealander to have a full-time ride in the FedEx Championship Series, was obviously delighted to secure his role with PacWest.

"A Champ Car drive has been my goal since day one, and it's fantastic that I will realize that at this stage of my career," said Dixon. "I have to thank Bruce McCaw and the rest of the PacWest operation for giving me this opportunity in what is the world's most competitive open-wheel series."

Dixon added, "I've enjoyed my testing in the Champ Car, especially during this off-season, and I cannot wait to get out there full-time. I am going to be on a steep learning curve, but I would like to think that we can be competitive and challenging for wins early into the season. I believe the Toyota engine package is the one to have next season, and that PacWest can play a big role in helping Toyota win the manufacturers' championship."

Dixon impressed team Director of Racing Operations Russell Cameron when he took part in a Laguna Seca test last September.

He had earlier impressed the team during a one-day "rookie" test at Putnam Park, which was completed in both wet and dry conditions.

"I think Scott was the obvious choice for the vacant Champ Car seat after his effort in the Dayton Indy Lights series this year and from the results he produced at tests during the 2000 season," said Cameron. "Scott learned a lot from PacWest Lights Team Manager Paul 'Ziggy' Harcus last year, and I am sure he will bring a youthful shot of enthusiasm to the team."

Dixon is the latest in a long line of Indy Lights drivers to progress to the Champ Car ranks, including current drivers Paul Tracy, Adrian Fernandez and Oriol Servia.

Dixon joined the PacWest Lights team in 2000 after a debut season with Johansson Motorsports, where he won at Chicago from the pole and finished fifth in the championship -- missing rookie of the year honors by just one point.

Like so many more before him, Dixon started his career karting in New Zealand.

At the age of just 13, Dixon was granted a special Motorsport Association of NZ "Junior License" that allowed him to compete at the club and national level, even though he was still a couple of years away from being granted a regular road-going permit. He qualified fourth and finished third in his first-ever Formula Vee race and went on to set lap records and win races en route to the 1993/94 National Championship.

Dixon went on to win many more races and titles in his home land before accepting an offer to drive in the 1997 Australian Formula Holden Championship -- a single-seater "wings and slicks" category -- in which he finished third and was named "Rookie of the Year". He won the title the following year.

On the strength of that Championship, and a lap record-breaking test at Sebring, Johansson Motorsports signed Dixon. He immediately made an impact by qualifying fourth and finishing third in his debut race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and then finishing second in the next event at Long Beach.

Last year, his Dayton Indy Lights results spoke for themselves. <pre> Date Location Start Finish April 16 Long Beach 2nd 1st June 4 Milwaukee Pole 1st June 18 Detroit 4th 4th June 25 Portland 8th 11th July 22 Michigan 13th 14th July 30 Chicago 3rd 1st August 13 Mid-Ohio 8th 2nd September 3 Vancouver 2nd 1st September 10 Laguna Seca 2nd 1st September 17 St Louis 2nd DNF October 1 Houston 6th DNF October 29 Fontana 2nd 1st

-TOM HOLLETT

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Bruce McCaw