Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript Wednesday, March 25, 2009 An interview with Scott Dixon MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests joining us ...
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
An interview with Scott Dixon
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests joining us today. In a few minutes we'll be joined by the reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, and joining us now is Firestone Indy Lights rookie James Hinchcliffe. Thanks for giving us a call.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Scott Dixon. Scott is returning for his seventh season in the IndyCar Series, all of them with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He's one of only two drivers to win multiple championships in the series, capturing the title last year and also in 2003. He's also the defending winner of the Indianapolis 500 and has won 10 of the last 25 races since the middle of 2007.
Scott, obviously that's an incredible run that you've been on for the last year and a half. Can you guys keep it going in 2009?
SCOTT DIXON: I'd like to think that we can definitely keep the momentum rolling. The way we started last season and the way we ended it we were still very competitive, and with the addition of Dario (Franchitti), I think to have the last two series champions and the last two 500 champions could definitely -- we've got the target on our back as such, and people are going to have to chase us.
But I think the team hasn't got too complacent by the looks of things over the season they've been developing the cars more so maybe than other years as I know the competition is going to be very tough this year with the transition teams having a complete season in it. I'd like to say we look good as a team, and hopefully we can come away with the two big trophies by the end of this year.
MODERATOR: You touched on it there, but obviously one of the big news in the offseason is adding Dario as a teammate for 2009. From the outside looking in, it looks like you guys have bonded well starting back with the race in Australia, a couple Open Tests. Obviously even events like Daytona and Sebring where you weren't necessarily teammates, yet at those events you were still both there. Talk a little bit more about adding Dario as a teammate and the component that that brings to the team.
SCOTT DIXON: It's been excellent, just from having a new teammate, I think for me I thrive on that. I've been lucky enough to stay with Ganassi. I think it's my eighth season with the team, as you said, seven in IndyCar and then I had a season before that in Champ Car. I've seen and been through a lot of teammates, and every time you get a new teammate you learn a lot of stuff, and Dario I think is very technical, very, very good on road courses and street courses, and he brings a lot to the team.
Having I think the 24-hour (at Daytona) together I think was great, but also, as you added, to have Australia to work together as a first race or a preseason race for the season was fantastic, and I think that was similar for Dan (Wheldon), who moved on to Panther. It was good to sort of get your feet a little wet and work with the new team and things like that.
Surprisingly we've been very close in driver styles and feel of the car. We're talking maybe 50 pounds to 100 pounds of spring difference is about the only thing that we kind of have. That's been pretty good for me because I've typically been a lot different from a lot of the other teammates.
As far as relationship goes, we've been great friends for many years. He was a guy I definitely looked up to when I came into the Champ Car series in 2001 and 2002, and I'd like to say we've definitely grown on that and I'm looking forward to a whole season with him.
MODERATOR: Let's take a quick look at the first two races of the year. St. Pete is a place you finished second twice, although last year in your championship campaign it was actually one of the places where you didn't finish the race and had some problems. I'm sure you'd like to come back there and get a strong start to the season.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, St. Pete actually was -- we started off great with the win at Homestead and then we had a problem in the first qualifying knockout. We had a lap taken off us, and then we were sort of knocked out of that, which was nothing that we ever thought we'd be a part of, not to even make it into the top 12.
That was frustrating. We had a great race. I think we were running about second, and actually coming out, I'm not sure if many people remember, but it was a bit of a wet start to the race and then it kind of dried up. When I went out on the dry tires, made contact with the wall in Turn 4 but then carried on for about another 25 laps until the suspension finally failed.
I think we were on for a good finish there, as well, definitely in the top three, which definitely bodes well. I think each year that we've been there we've done pretty well. I'd like to think we've learned a fair bit in the season, especially at Detroit with the street course car, and to put it on the pole there was definitely a lot of fun. I'd like to hope that we can have a consistently good car there and try and finish out front.
MODERATOR: And then two weeks later we go to Long Beach. What do you remember about Long Beach and what kind of show do you think the IndyCar Series will put on there?
SCOTT DIXON: Looking forward to Long Beach. It's a fantastic race. I think the last time I was there was maybe 2004 or 2005 as a spectator, and it's a fantastic race. It's a race with a lot of history, and I think for myself I've been there maybe four times 1999-2000 -- I won a race there in 2000 in Indy Lights, and then I think I had engine failures or something along those lines in the Champ Car days. But definitely a fantastic circuit.
I think as far as the IndyCar Series going there, it will almost be a better show than Champ Car because the cars are a lot closer and the power is maybe not as much as the turbo cars down the straights, but I think we'll have a great possibility to pass there, so I'm looking forward to I think a very good race.
Q: Let's go one more week and talk about Kansas a little bit. Being that that's the first oval and it's also the last race before Indy, can you talk about the importance of that as far as getting your setup and everything going to go in circles after two weeks of streets?
SCOTT DIXON: Definitely looking forward to it. I think Kansas as a circuit for the Target cars has been fantastic. We've always had very good races there. I think Dan won there last year. In the last two years I kind of missed out, some fuel problems or something like that. It's been frustrating on my end. But we still ended up with a top three.
As a track and finishing-wise, I can't wait to get there. I think it's going to be a fantastic place for us, for Dario and myself. But as you said, the first oval, I think it's going to be an eye-opener. We have a fair share of rookies this year, so it'll be a good place to work at, see who you can race with at this point and who you can't and who you want to give a bit more room coming into the month of May. As far as the month of May and that being the prep, you get so much time at the Speedway, a good eight days with testing and things like that. It will be good to get a lot of people up to speed, but it's far different from Indy. But every race this year definitely counts. With what the competition level is going to be, you need to be finishing and finishing very well.
Q: Scott, you've got to be looking forward to getting back to Toronto. I know that you had some fairly good runs there if my memory serves correct with the old Champ Car series. The race was dark last year, but the race on that street course very tight, very narrow on the lake, is always a good contest and you've got to be looking forward to getting back there.
SCOTT DIXON: For sure. The Canadian races, even last year when we got to go to Edmonton, the fan base in Canada is fantastic. One, being just great fans but also very knowledgeable, which is a breath of fresh air in some places. It's been a place that I've enjoyed going to in the past. It's a great city to go to, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Probably not as much as my teammate because I think he's had many a great races over the years, but for me just the street courses that their adding, and then when it's high caliber like Toronto as far as the race course goes, it's definitely huge on my tick list.
Q: Going into new seasons for other racing series, and I'm thinking of Formula One, there's all kinds of rule changes, check changes, they're going back to slick tires. The IRL I don't think there are any huge rule changes or check changes if there are any at all. That's got to be an advantage for you as a defending champion knowing you're going into the season with pretty much the same roller skate that you won the title with the year before.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you definitely said it. That's even in addition with the lack of offseason testing, too, so that's definitely in our favor, as well.
There has been some changes, but I think on most of them it's been for safety reasons and things like that where the Indy Racing League have definitely tried to keep that going. But you know, in the economic times it's very tough to make updates to cars and engine programs and things like that. I think they've done the right thing in maintaining the current package that we have. And it also gives those transition teams a little time in the winter to try and catch up with development and pieces and stuff that they need to redefine on the car.
As you said, it is definitely good for us. It's very hard for rookies. I keep stressing that to a lot of people at the moment. When I was a rookie, I think I came in with 25 or 30 test days going into my first Champ Car race, and now you can't really do much at all. It's great for us veterans and especially when you come off a great year, but very tough on these rookies.
Q: When you're doing post-race debrief, for the fans who probably don't know and most of us don't get into that inner sanctum, when you're done qualifying or testing or practice or whatever it is, do you debrief with Dario together with the engineers and then do you break off and do individual debriefing, or how does it work? Or is that stuff we need to know?
SCOTT DIXON: It's definitely a very open book at Ganassi. The information goes from car to car, from engineer to engineer and driver to driver. Definitely through the years there's been some friction and maybe some false stuff traded from driver to driver from time to time and maybe not wanting to give up some stuff. Dario is very open, Dan was very open, even (Ryan) Briscoe and (Darren) Manning at their points.
After the race I think the first thing on your mind is if it's a good one, obviously celebration comes first, then to try and get off the track and go home, and you talk to the engineer the following week. But both the drivers always go through the debrief after qualifying, especially the practices. That's the time when you can make most of the changes is between the practices and leading up to qualifying. So that is a big time to try to talk to the other guys, see where maybe they're a little better in some areas and try and work as one.
Q: After winning the Indy 500 and championship last year, is it almost good to have a teammate, a new teammate, the caliber of Dario from a motivational standpoint, or is the fact that you drive for Chip Ganassi enough motivation to go into 2009?
SCOTT DIXON: It definitely makes sure you're motivated. It does help, and especially luckily for me as I go back to -- I've been lucky enough to stay with the team, but I've had -- if you want to call it fresh blood, quite often. So it's been great for me to learn different areas. Every day you're in the car, especially with the lack of testing, you're learning something and learning a lot. And for me it's a great time to try and soak some information up, especially a new teammate, maybe a few different styles, different areas where he does things differently is big for me.
I was still learning off Dan, especially on the ovals throughout the years I was with him, and it was tough to see him go, but definitely to have Dario -- I think he's extremely motivated too, just sort of the fact of what happened to him when he tried to go to NASCAR, the sponsorship on the team side didn't really follow him through. So that was a tough deal for him, and I think he's coming back to definitely prove a point, and I'm going to try and drag myself on some of that motivation, as well.
Q: You and your wife are expecting your first child in July. Congratulations. I saw a quote from your dad that you're doing very well for a guy who never planned to get married and never planned to have children. When did you make that declaration?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I think that he's going back to days when I was maybe 16 or 17, and to be honest even probably until I was 23, 24, 25 there was never anything even on the radar. So I think a young guy, especially in a racing sort of atmosphere, you have fun where you can, and as you mature and stuff and grow, those things change, and I guess your mindset changes. And for me for the last couple years I've definitely been in the mindset of starting a family, and it's just lucky that everything seemed to fit together at the right point with Emma, an amazing wife and a huge addition for me, and it changed me in many ways, too.
Q: With the restrictions on testing that you guys have had this year as a driver, how do you handle this without the seat time? And the second question was how does that bother your equipment testing?
SCOTT DIXON: For me -- well, and probably Dario, as well, and some of the other guys, you can see that we've been trying to do as much as we can outside of the cars, outside of the IndyCar Series atleast. The practice at the 24-Hours (of Daytona) and then the race at the 24-Hour and then the preseason testing for the LMP1, that's been getting us seat time. I think I probably did six, seven or eight days in the ALMS car, and that's probably more than I'll do all season in IndyCars.
For me the offseason was a slow offseason, which is kind of good, because I could soak in the results that we had from last year, and maybe carry those for a little longer. But I think all of us have been trying to get into a bit of other classes that don't really conflict with the IndyCar Series because that's for sure the main goal, and the majority that we're paid for during the season is for all that stuff.
I think for me doing that is to keep you in a car more and maybe a little more active. It's definitely a good thing and a positive for Chip in IndyCar.
As far as the cars go, somebody mentioned just earlier that the cars have definitely not changed that much, so as far as the reliability and areas of testing on an IndyCar it's not so much a big deal.
Q: There wasn't a major change in equipment this year I assume?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I think it's mostly stuff with brakes and some of the safety things and our electronic changes to the engine and things. Most of those are in the reliability areas, as well, so not too much.
Q: All of your results in the last couple of seasons and even before that, I don't think the wins and getting a championship ever get routine, but does your fire in the belly to win, does that burn constantly still, or do you have to feed that fire with other motivation?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I think for me at least at this point, I'm still only 28, but that fire is still burning and burning strong, and all I want to do at any point in time is be in a car and try and go fast for any series that I'm involved in, and more so for the IndyCar stuff.
I think things help that obviously the new people coming in the series, I think the competition this year is going to be probably at its highest ever, and a new teammate for sure, wanting to do well is motivation, as well. I'm just thinking as strong and wanting to perform better than I did starting last year.
Q: Additionally, having the two champions on board on the same team, do you expect they're looking at your team members, do you expect any changes in their attitude, or are they just going to do the work as usual?
SCOTT DIXON: I think they're going to go to work as usual. The team for sure try their hardest every day. Luckily enough we're definitely in a great team. And in addition to what keeps people motivated, I think that's just how the times are, and jobs are pretty scarce and things like that. But I think having two champions on the team probably gives them extra motivation and extra drive. You've definitely got to strike while the iron is hot. Those guys are definitely going to be pushing as hard as they can.
MODERATOR: Scott, thanks again for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time to do that, and best of luck.