Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript September 16, 2003 Scott Dixon K. Johnson: We would like to welcome everyone to the Indy Racing League teleconference for this week, Tuesday, Sept. 16. Today we will visit with driver Ed ...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
September 16, 2003
K. Johnson: We would like to welcome everyone to the Indy Racing League teleconference for this week, Tuesday, Sept. 16. Today we will visit with driver Ed Carpenter, who is competing in both the Menards Infiniti Pro Series as well as the IndyCar Series this weekend in California, as well as take a look at the IndyCar Series points chase with drivers Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon.
Our next guest is IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon. Scott drives the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, and he currently stands second in the IndyCar Series point standings with 427 points trailing Helio Castroneves by only 12 points. Thus far in 2003 he has recorded seven top-five finishes, including three victories, those taking place at Homestead Miami, Pikes Peak and Richmond. Scott, good morning and thanks for joining us.
S. Dixon: All right, thank you very much.
K. Johnson: Turning our thoughts towards the championship chase, as well as this weekend at California, you entered the race on a little bit of a roller coaster in that you seemed to be alternating very strong finishes with some finishes outside of the top 10. What is it going to take to catch Helio for the points lead?
S. Dixon: Well, basically, I think we need to focus on finishing. You know, we have had very fast cars with Team Target all year, and I think every track that we have gone to, we have had a chance to win. The problem was we have had races like Phoenix and then the last two recent ones with St. Louis and Nazareth where I think we could have quite convincingly won the race, but we had mechanical problems. We need to focus on making sure that the car is right and we can finish these races and hopefully finish in front of Helio, especially, and try to close that gap for the last race.
K. Johnson: Can you put your finger on why at this point in the season you are still searching for a little bit of consistency?
S. Dixon: I think a lot of it has been sort of niggly little mechanical problems which probably could have happened to any team. You know, it is always hard to put your finger on one thing, but as I have said before, we have been at the front, and we have been racing at the front. I think we would have had a lot more consistent finishes and a lot more wins, but you know to win in the IndyCar Series, you have to finish, and we have not been doing that.
K. Johnson: Now at this stage in your career, what would an IndyCar Series championship mean to you?
S. Dixon: It would definitely mean a lot. You know, it is a great series. The competition is huge, and there are a lot of great drivers out there, and as you can see, coming into the last couple of races, there have been five or six that can still win, and that is pretty hard to find in a championship. This year, I never thought that I would really say that I have enjoyed it, but I have had a lot of fun. I never really thought I would be in an all-oval series, but things have been going well. I think from a driver's point of view, the racing is far more superior to anything that I have been in before, and I really have had a lot of fun. I would definitely love to win it. I have not won a championship for a while, so it would be very nice.
K. Johnson: I mean, you are obviously poised to win the championship. Was that something heading into the year that you thought was really within your grasp? I mean, obviously, Chip Ganassi Racing is an outstanding team, but was that the main goal?
S. Dixon: It is hard. I think, especially if you are just coming over with Team Target for their first year in the IRL, it is hard to sort of gauge, and obviously, with the new packages and with Panoz G Force and Toyota, it is hard to know where that was going to stand. Then after Homestead and qualifying quite well, we ended up winning the race. I think after we won Homestead and knew that we were going to be very competitive and knowing that you are with a team that has won many championships, you have to expect probably nothing less than you want to win the championship, and you know you probably have great chances.
K. Johnson: Well, Scott, at this time I would like to open our forum for questions from our media.
S. Dixon: All right.
Operator: Thank you. Our question comes from Ron Martin from CBS Radio Sports, please state your question.
Q: You said something about you did not think you would have fun. Exactly what did you mean by that?
S. Dixon: Well, coming from New Zealand and the racing that I have done previously all being road courses, and I think actually even the first year in Indy Lights, I did have a bit of fun, but you know, I struggled a little on the ovals. I do not know, I have always liked the mix that Indy Lights and CART had, and you know, going to an oval series is going to be hard. As I said before, once you got into the racing, it was a lot more fun that CART ever was.
Q: When you look to this championship and the last couple of races where every decision that is made could be vital, mentally, how challenging is it?
S. Dixon: Mentally, a lot of people can look into it too much. You know, I think you just have to look at the basic things and make sure you try and get the basic things right. Hey, if you have a problem, that is part of life, and you have to come back and try next year. So, you know, it can be difficult. I think you have to keep an open mind, and if things go great, they go great, and if they do not, you need to try and better them at the next race. I do not know, I just do not think you can look into it too much.
Q: Are you surprised that you are in the position that you are in today? I am not talking about with the team, but where you are in the championship?
S. Dixon: As I said just before, it is hard to sort of gauge. I think that as a driver, we are all very confident, and we all think we are probably the best thing out there, and coming together with a great team like Team Target, you know you have a great shot. The last couple of years have sort of been up and down for myself, and I think this year, I have really gelled. Each year it is hard. With motorsport, especially, it is hard to know what to expect, but I would definitely like to have another year like this.
Q: I wonder what kind of feedback you get from your friends back in New Zealand or maybe some of the other racing circles you have been in about these amazing finishes and how competitive this situation is in the IRL because there is no other major series, I guess Formula One is having a pretty competitive year, but I mean five of you have a shot to win this championship right now. I do not know how many other series can say that towards the end like this.
S. Dixon: Yes, it is definitely something that does not come along too often, but there has been a lot of talk, and we have been getting a lot of support from New Zealand. A lot of friends I talk to now and then or I will get messages just saying, 'Oh, you know, you are a great race to watch,' and a lot of times for me it has been, 'Oh, you know, bad luck and try next time.' But, you know, there has been tremendous support, and you can see this year going to different races that the crowds are picking up and the enthusiasm. It is just huge, so I think the IRL is doing a good job.
Q: This racing, I asked Danny Wheldon about this last week on the teleconference, Scott, is it as much fun to drive wheel to wheel at 220 miles an hour for 20 consecutive laps as it is for us to be able to watch it?
S. Dixon: It depends on what race. I think the last race in Chicagoland, I was kind of surprised there were not a lot more crashes. Probably most of us drivers should have looked after each other a little better, but that is part of racing, and we all want to win and give it our best. But along those lines, you know, it is not very often you get races where there can be four or five passes going on just with yourself, so it is a lot of fun, but you have to have a thought of the crashes and things like that. I definitely had a lot of fun in Chicago.
Q: Your thoughts about Fontana? Were you in that last race a couple of years ago where there were 73 lead changes the last race of the season, the 2001 season, is that right?
S. Dixon: In 2001, yes, I guess I was. I think I ended up crashing with about four laps to go.
Q: Oh, sorry about that.
S. Dixon: We were running fourth or fifth.
Q: I am just kind of curious your thoughts about Fontana as a place to race.
S. Dixon: (Inaudible), sort of four or five of us or maybe even six that stretched away from the main pack and fought it out there, but I think this time at the end of the year, it is going to be very hard to break away, and there are going to be a lot of big groups racing together. It is going to be probably more exciting than the last race.
K. Johnson: Scott, going into a race weekend, it has to be comforting to know, I mean you look at your qualifying history, as well as that of your teammate Thomas Scheckter, you guys qualify up front all the time, you have led laps in the races in all but two of the 14 events we have raced at so far, so it is almost like you go into the weekend knowing that, 'Hey, I can concentrate on racing because I know I am going to start up front.'
S. Dixon: Yes. I think it is great to have confidence like that. I think going into every race this year, that is probably what has paid off the most. We do not focus a whole lot on qualifying. We do focus a lot on the racing, but you know, we just have such a fast package, and that is the key of deciding on having the right gear and things like that. It is going to each race knowing you have a shot at winning it and you have a shot at getting pole position, as well.
Q: I am wondering how important your spotter is in these final races. I do not know how much you talk with your spotter during the course of the race, but give us some idea how busy your spotter was with you during those closing laps in Chicago and how busy you expect him to be in these last two races at both California and Texas.
S. Dixon: I am surprised they do not lose their voice more often because I think just about from the start of the Chicagoland race, I think Packy (Wheeler) was keyed up from the start. It is definitely very busy out there, and the spotters are a great key to just letting you know what is around you. Obviously, most of us are aware of it, but it just helps things out. They definitely work out for it.
Q: Is a spotter someone that you select for yourself, a guy that you have a good rapport with or is it someone that the team says, 'Here, you are going to work with this guy?'
S. Dixon: I think most of the time the team probably selects them. You know, if you are lucky enough to stay with the team for a few years, you try to keep the same guy, and it starts from the preseason testing where you start working with these kind of people. Packy (Wheeler) has been great for me this year, and we get along great, and you know, obviously, after all of these races, you start to build a rapport, and it is definitely working for us.
K. Johnson: Scott, we are out of time for our call this morning, but again, we appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning.
S. Dixon: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.