T.E. McHale: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. Thanks to all of you for making the time to join us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Scott Dixon of the PacWest Racing Group who became the...
T.E. McHale: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. Thanks to all of you for making the time to join us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Scott Dixon of the PacWest Racing Group who became the youngest race winner in CART FedEx Championship Series with his victory in Sunday's Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway.
Good afternoon, Scott, thanks for being with us today.
Scott Dixon: Thanks a lot.
T.E. McHale: Scott, the driver of the No. 18 Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota Reynard etched his name in the CART record book. Winning his victory at age 20 years, 9 months and 14 days, made him the youngest driver to ever win a CART Champ car event.
Greg Moore, who was 22 years, 1 month and 10 days old when he won at Milwaukee in 1997 had been CART's previous youngest winner. Scott also became the first CART rookie to win his first FedEx Championship Series start on an oval.
His victory from the 23rd starting position represented the second deepest point on the starting grid from which anyone has driven to victory, exceeded only by Mike Mosley, who drove from 25th to 1st at Milwaukee in 1981.
Scott, the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights champion scored the 43rd FedEx Championship Series victory for an Indy Lights graduate since Paul Tracy claimed the first at Long Beach in 1993.
Indy Lights products have won all three events contested thus far this season, with Christiano da Matta winning at Monterrey, Mexico, and Helio Castroneves at Long Beach, California, prior to Scott's win on Sunday.
Heading into round four of the FedEx Championship Series, the May 19th Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring, Motegi, Japan, Scott stands 7th in the Championship Series championship with 20 points. Firestone Firehawk 500, round four of the FedEx Championship Series will air live on ESPN on Saturday night, May 19th, beginning at midnight eastern time.
With that, we will begin taking questions for Scott.
Could you reasonably have anticipated winning this quickly? At the start of the year, what was a reasonable expectation on your part
Scott Dixon: Obviously, you know, it was a shock to win this early, especially from how the weekend had been going. We had set goals of maybe winning a race later on in the season, but basically set out to be consistent.
I'm just wondering what you know about Greg Moore? Had you heard of him before you got to Indy Lights
Scott Dixon: For sure. You know, obviously my first trip to the States was in '97. Prior to us coming in '99, we first came over here and checked it out. From watching it back home, definitely great racing, for sure. Didn't know the guy personally or anything, but definitely watched a lot.
You are the second youngest Indy Lights winner after Greg. You won a race a lot faster than he did. I guess, what does that mean to you
Scott Dixon: You know, Greg was very successful. But totally unexpected. Happy that it's come, you know. So unexpected really.
Can you tell me what you thought about the track in Vancouver the first time you saw it
Scott Dixon: What was that, sir?
What you thought of the Vancouver track. You won in your first race there.
Scott Dixon: It was pretty good. The first time I'd been to Vancouver. Actually, I went there in '97 just to watch. The circuit was very good, car worked really well there with the Indy Lights team last year. Some of those races outside of the States are sometimes the most enjoyable ones, just the atmosphere. Excellent circuit, I thought.
The PacWest team has been without a win for quite some time now. How much did this win mean to them and to you
Scott Dixon: I think it's something that's definitely been coming for a long time. With the previous years, where they sort of struggled a little bit, it's obviously nice with the new package this year with Toyota. It's not so much for me, but for the team it's such a big lift. Obviously, everybody has been working here really hard, things like that, even the guys behind the scenes. It's really just going to help the team a lot emotionally. Everybody at the shop here the last few days, everybody is just so happy, working a lot harder. I think it's going to help a lot.
Do you feel this win will help maybe the team secure a primary sponsor for your car, maybe even from your homeland of New Zealand, or maybe Australia
Scott Dixon: You know, we've definitely been trying very hard, especially on the sponsorship back home and Australia. Obviously, we have a lot of things on the books at the moment. Next few days, they have a lot of stuff going on. It will be interesting to see if we can get a primary sponsor for the car. Hopefully we will.
Have things come as easily as you thought they would this season in Champ cars? I know it's been difficult, but have things come a little bit easier? Your third race, you have a win.
Scott Dixon: I don't know. It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Mexico, the car was pretty good. A bit of a disappointment that we were in the slow group. But, you know, we have been struggling a lot.
Nazareth was basically one of the places that definitely showed that we lost a lot of time on Friday, didn't really get it set up for qualifying. The race care was excellent.
It's hard to say, you know, but it's definitely a shock. The car was so good in the race. For me, the race was not so difficult. Like it was probably easier than I would have imagined never having been in that situation.
Did you guys do anything different during the race that changed the car that made it drive on rails during the run
Scott Dixon: We had the test there the week before at Nazareth. We did a lot of long runs, things like that, basically worked on the race car. We were going to, you know, work on the qualifying car once we got there. So we basically knew we had a pretty good baseline for Nazareth going into the race.
After the qualifying, we basically just didn't change a thing, maybe a few minor things for the race. But the car that we qualified was (inaudible).
Indy Lights, the last rung of the ladder before CART, can you tell us what that discipline was able to translate to realities in CART and talk about how the ladder system has helped you
Scott Dixon: Without Indy Lights, it would have been definitely a lot harder. I wouldn't have gained the experience that I had on ovals, because that's what basically taught me how to race on the ovals. Being from New Zealand, racing in Australia and things like, that they just don't have ovals down there. Lights is definitely the best training ground I ever had.
It puts you in the spotlight for Champ cars, which enables a lot of the guys to move up. Without the ladder system, it would be definitely pretty hard to break your way in.
Were you able to translate some of the learning discipline to CART or is quite a bit different
Scott Dixon: You know, a lot of it's very similar but, you know, the way the car works and things like that, with the horsepower difference, and balance-wise, especially the shorter ovals, it's a lot different with the aerodynamics, especially on the Champ car now being so light.
Last year with the Indy Lights, being able to run full down force on the shorter circuits, nearly being flat all the way around, it's been pretty difficult to change for the shorter ovals.
Going into Motegi, obviously you've not been there. Are you looking at videos? What kind of preparation are you doing for that
Scott Dixon: Yeah, we basically come back to the shop and just going over stuff for Motegi, basically just looking at the ways that we can improve, especially on our qualifying after Nazareth, probably what we're going to work on a lot more as opposed to our race car, things like that.
It's going to be interesting. We'll probably look at making Motegi a little different way than how Nazareth went.
I know at Texas, we were watching you during the rookie practice session that you had out there. You certainly were turning in some real good laps there. I won't say you were putting it to the other rookies, but you certainly were holding your own out there. How do you compare that track back with Nazareth? Did the experience there help you with feeling confident at Nazareth
Scott Dixon: Again, with Texas, we were, you know, definitely disappointed with how the qualifying went. But, you know, through the practices and stuff, I think even on the Saturday we were Top 5. I think it probably helps, you know. The more time you get in the car, it definitely helps for preparing you for, you know, the next event.
You know, I think it's a totally different circuit (inaudible) flat out the whole way, and kind of easy for the driver, I guess, you know, gaining time out of the circuit. Definitely a lot harder for the engineers.
I think Nazareth, it's probably a little more even for both the driver and the engineer.
How was the week with Mauricio being out, the bruising incident, and emotionally the team was on a roller coaster with the death of his son, how were you able to prepare for Nazareth facing all of that
Scott Dixon: You know, it was definitely tough, especially with Texas, not having Mauricio there. He's a huge help for me because he's full of so much information. With the current situations and things like that, he's good to get to and talk about things. He always brings up good points throughout the weekend.
It's a shame what happened. I think it made Nazareth quite hard in a way, only having one car, only able to feed off of one car for information. It would have been a little easier, I think, the weekend having Mauricio there just because he's so good with helping the team.
For Scott your perhaps yourself, T.E. I've read that Scott is not only the youngest Champ car driver to ever have a victory, perhaps he's the youngest driver in major open-wheel racing worldwide. Does anyone know
T.E. McHale: We have confirmed that. We took the time to confirm that after the race on Sunday to the point where we can pretty much vouch for the fact that no one in F-1 or in the IRL was any younger than Scott when he won the race.
I heard that McLaren was 22.
T.E. McHale: Correct. I'm not sure who the IRL's youngest winner was. I don't have that at the tip of my tongue. We're pretty confident that in major open-wheel history, Scott is the youngest winner.
How much confidence does this give you now going into the rest of the season, to have your first win under your belt so early
Scott Dixon: You know, as I've said, it helps me a lot just in the way that, you know, we know we can actually do it. It just helps everybody's confidence, especially the team. I think everybody is going to work a lot better now. You know, at least we've done it now and we know that we can do it. There's no reason why we can't do it again.
T.E. McHale: We will wrap it up for the day. Scott Dixon, thank you for joining us. Congratulations again on your victory last Sunday. Best of luck in the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Motegi and the rest of the season.
Scott Dixon: Thank you.
T.E. McHale: Thanks to you who took the time to be with us this afternoon, and good day.