An interview with Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon. Eric Mauk: Welcome, everyone. Joining us on the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom, is the driver of the No. 44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone for Target Chip ...
An interview with Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon.
Eric Mauk: Welcome, everyone. Joining us on the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom, is the driver of the No. 44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Mr. Scott Dixon. Scott, welcome and thanks for joining us on the teleconference today.
Scott Dixon: All right, thank you.
Eric Mauk: The 22-year-old native of Auckland, New Zealand is in his second year in the CART FedEx Championship Series and is currently 11th in the points chance with three races to ruin. However the competitiveness of the Series this year leaves Scott -- although he is 11th -- leaves him with a chance to finish second in this year's Championship. The 2001 Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year Award winner is the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel series event, achieving that status with his 2001 win at Nazareth taking the checkered flag at the age of 20 years, nine months, and 14 days. Scott has 10 top-10 finishes this year highlighted by his second place run at the Shell Grand Prix of Denver.
First thing we wanted to do, Scott, just to keep you from having to answer the same question over and over again and also to answer the main question on everyone's mind, is to ask about what you can tell us about your plans and how things are going for 2003.
Scott Dixon: Basically the contract has been taken up for next year, so we're contracted to Ganassi. He's still yet to release basically what he's doing next year. We'd obviously like to stay in CART but it is, I think, in Chip's best interest -- obviously to keep his sponsors and it's what they choose to do, so as of yet I am sure probably in a couple of weeks there will be a release of what is going on.
Eric Mauk: You joined Target Chip Ganassi Racing in Milwaukee after starting the season with PWR. Now that you have been with the squad for four, five months, do you feel like you have gotten acclimated, feel like you have gotten your way around there?
Scott Dixon: Yeah, for sure. The guys were great and it was good to have people from PacWest sort of join me over there as well to sort of help get to know everybody. It has been very hard. It's not something you'd like to do every year is swap teams sort of after three races and this year, especially, being with all -- with no in -season testing which is very hard and that's what we felt the hardest to start with. Obviously everything is different in the way they like to set up cars. That's where we struggled. We did a lot of testing at race weekends and it is just not the way to do it. That's why we were sort of fast one day and then the next day we totally missed the boat. It has been very hard and pretty challenging, but it seems the last few races; especially our street course setup, we have pretty much defined and it's just going -- I am looking forward to starting a new year and playing with the team.
Eric Mauk: This (TCGR) has been one of CART's strongest teams as of late, and won four consecutive CART Championships in the late '90s. Anything from your experience now that you have been with them a while that kind of sets them apart; something that you see in your day-to-day operation with the team that's makes you think, oh, this is why they have been so successful?
Scott Dixon: It's differs, as I said, from team to team. PWR, I think, was very good in attention to detail. The cars were very well prepared. I think what helps while at Target there's a lot of information, a lot of resources that you can get to from past years and things like that. But the problem nowadays is things have changed so much with the tires. I think Chip has always been very good on picking the right package and earlier years I think that was a big help and as far as testing, things like that. That's where they have got a huge jump. Now it is so close you could still have a good car but be eighth in the field; it could be the driver messing up by a couple of tenths and things like that. It's just the competition is so tight now. There's nothing ever that stands out drastically. You know, it's nice to have a team that's well-funded; whatever you need, you get, that kind of thing. And it's good to have that for a change. So nothing typically stands out; just a lot of good people, a lot of race horses and a well formed team.
Q: Scott, you are heading basically back home or at least near home, consider Australia your home race. Do you like that course? Can you tell us a little bit about it and how you approach it?
Scott Dixon: Obviously it is always a fun race to go to. Australia is known for that. The weather is always good and things like that. The circuit, I don't know, it's kinds of strange, people like it or dislike it. I think it depends on how you do there. We did pretty well last year and I think we could have ended up with a podium just with how the race went; where we got sort of stuck out and close touch and things like that and then we end up blowing the pickups. I think we were running fourth. But it's nice for myself to get back home. A lot of family comes to the race and it's just very enjoyable.
Q: Some drivers will do it; some won't. Do you feel like taking us for a lap around; how you approach each corner and how you see it coming up on you?
Scott Dixon: The biggest thing in Australia, is obviously I think the braking in Turn 1 there is a lot of time made. Obviously you have got set up the car, but the corners are wide there where you've got a lot of curbing, you've got to jump, two or three and you've got a lot of 90 degrees, so you have got to have good change of direction. And obviously it's hard to compromise that with a good platform for something that rides the curbs pretty well. The circuit, going down towards, I think it's the south end where you have two lefts, they are pretty straightforward. And coming on the backstraight down into that left/right, that's always a pretty easy corner to sort of cut straight basically because it's hidden. You can't really see it. It's a lot harder than you think. Then you have got the faster chicanes further on down the backstraight which there I think is probably where most of the time is made. Obviously then you have just got a series of 90s and left, left and then a right, all those are pretty straightforward street course stuff.
Q: Do you think this year, as well as you have been doing recently and how the team has jelled that this is going to be another upfront race for you?
Scott Dixon: Yeah, for sure. I think that, as I said earlier, that we have really defined our street course setup. I think Australia is probably a little different because it's smooth. We have got a good balance now. It's something that we have known and we have got to probably keep for races like this and we have been to Miami and Denver and never really changed anything. We sort of just rolled off the truck.
Q: At least this is more grippy than Denver and Miami; isn't it?
Scott Dixon: Yeah, I am sure. With Denver and Miami, it was really only the black surface parts of the circuit where it was really bad. Miami was probably worse by a long way, it's that sealer they use. At least here it's the normal tar roads that they drive on and they have haven't change in any way so it will be a lot quicker.
Q: Most of the momentum in CART seems to be that the street races, the temporary street courses like Australia, like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Long Beach seem to be the most successful courses and shows that CART puts on. Does that sit well with you? There are some guys that say, well, street courses are okay, but they are not my favorite. What is your view on that? It seems that is where CART is headed. Does that sit well with your future plans?
Scott Dixon: Obviously it depends on what we're going to be doing next year. I think the street courses, you know, it's a good fan base and it's easy to get people interested because they see the action going on even before the race with in setting up the circuit and it gets a lot of interest. I think for CART that's basically what they need to do. It definitely helps, but then you have got the road courses like Elkhart Lake and Mid-Ohio who have their own fan base, you know, for enthusiasts for road courses. I think the ovals probably don't play a big part in CART's future. They need to take the more downtown cities and overseas, I think -- like you go to Australia or even in the other overseas, the Canadian ones, are just huge. They make it more of a carnival; the atmosphere is a lot nicer. And, you know, you go to some circuits, some of the ovals, like Milwaukee, nobody really turns out. They don't really know what is going on.
Q: Compare the fans in Australia to the fans maybe at Long Beach and where you just were in Miami and say, the three Canadian races, are they just as enthusiastic, just as knowledgeable? Any similarity between the fans for the street race in Australia than in would be in Toronto?
Scott Dixon: I think Toronto, Vancouver and Australia are pretty similar. They make a big party of it, a lot of action going on. I am not sure, you know, they generally know a lot, the Australians, of what is going on. It's good for us because they follow -- I think we have definitely helped a lot of it down there, there's a lot more people that watch and things like that. But maybe just, I don't know, the enthusiasm could be coming because they probably drink a lot, (Laughter) they just have a good time. Long Beach also has a good following, it is a very famous race, things like that, but just the atmosphere I guess you could say Australia is probably a little bit crazier, similar to Vancouver and Toronto.
Eric Mauk: You grew up in New Zealand, grew up racing the open-wheel cars, started at a very young age and you had to be granted a special license just to get into the Formula Ford Circuit. Talk a little bit about what it meant to you to race at Surfers Paradise last year with the Champ Cars.
Scott Dixon: Obviously, it's pretty good. I think it was a lot of fun. And generally it's nice to prove that you can actually do it. With places like New Zealand and Australia you get a lot of the small poppy syndrome where people try to, in some ways, put you down because they are not going to the same lengths or improving in levels of racing like you have. So the attitude changes a lot once you get there. You find out you automatically have a lot more friends than what you thought you did have and maybe they are only there because they want something. But I think the attitude changed a lot and it's good -- it helped the country, I think there's a lot of talented drivers down there and just hope that people can sort of help them out the same way I got help.
Eric Mauk: You mentioned, and the results certainly backed this up, that Target Chip Ganassi Racing has hit on their street circuit setup. You have done very well there; especially in recent races. But this being probably the longest street circuit that's in existence with a few very fast sections, can you use that same kind of setup? Do you have to turn this into more of a horsepower track; how do you approach it?
Scott Dixon: Obviously, I think Toyota will be supplying hopefully us a good engine. All their engines are kept very similar so you know they are pretty much on the top of their game on the motor side of the things at the moment so I think we're going to be pretty happy with that. In general, I think the setup will stay fairly similar, maybe slightly stiffer springs or something because you are going at higher speed. It is generally the same sort of lines, you know, things like that, and corners, because you have got very slow 90s and a lot of big breaking things where most street courses do. As you said, it is a little faster, but you know, I think you have got to compromise some things. I think the setup will work very well.
Eric Mauk: Scott, I think that's going to do it. We appreciate your time and calling in for the CART weekly teleconference. As always, best of luck this week and for the rest of season. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see you race for quite sometime to come.
Scott Dixon: Thank you very much.
Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. That concludes the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom. Keep in mind that we do contest the Honda Indy 300 beginning with first round qualifying Friday at 12:00 a.m., that's midnight Eastern Time. We also have final qualifying that begins later Friday evening 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The Honda Indy 300 will take place Sunday morning at midnight Eastern Time. You can catch that on SPEED Channel and also you can catch it over the internet on www.cart.com, the official site of the FedEx Championship Series. Thank you again and good afternoon.