Chip Ganassi Racing's managing director Mike Hull believes that four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon stands comparison with the legends of the sport.
Dixon has scored 41 race wins in his Indy car career, which stretches back to 2001, and this leaves him just one victory shy of joining Michael Andretti in third on the series’ all-time list, behind only AJ Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52). The New Zealander also heads to this weekend’s series finale just three points adrift of championship leader, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden. Should he win his fifth title it would pull him into a clear second place in the all-time list, behind only Foyt (seven).
Hull suggested that it’s Dixon’s ever-increasing experience in pressure situations that has led to his ever-increasing reliability when the chips are down.
“I think when you’ve won as many races as Scott has won, and championships, and big races, he's learned to exhale,” said Hull. “And I think he's the kind of person who works hard for getting the best result from today.
“So, yeah, there's a lot of gravity going on here when we race at Sonoma, and it is going to be different. But we approach the way that we prepare and how we race in the same manner that we have with Scott for a long, long time.”
Hull was reluctant to compare Dixon with other Ganassi champions, but instead preferred to base his assessment on how the 36-year-old has competed against his rivals.
“I don't know that it's a fair comparison necessarily to compare Scott Dixon to Dario [Franchitti] or to Alex Zanardi or Jimmy Vasser or Juan Montoya or any other champion we've run at our race team,” he said. “I think it's more important to look at how he's done lineage-wise for the number of years – in this case maybe the decades he raced – and who he raced against, how he compared to those drivers.
“If you do that, and you look at his winning record – how he's won races, how he's represented himself – that stands him apart. I think that stands him in equal presence to the people he's starting to pass on that [all-time] list. Because that's what those drivers did while they were racing IndyCars. They conducted themselves in the same way that Scott is now doing.
“I think he will go down as one of the best of all time, from a comparative standpoint.”
Hull said that Dixon’s ability to adapt had been key to his remaining in championship contention in 2017, despite the team’s switch from Chevrolet to Honda.
Remarked Hull: “If you study Scott’s career, I would say there's five, maybe six changes in the IndyCar formula over his career span. He continues to run at the front.
“Any time you have a formula change, which we're going to have again next year [to the universal aerokits], a driver has to step outside himself or herself and realize that they've got to change their drive style pretty significantly if they're going to run at the front.
“What we did this year was we changed to Honda. That included the aerokit and the engine package. So Scott had to adapt himself once again to a changing formula – and he still manages to be one of the best.
“So for us on the inside here at Chip Ganassi Racing, watching him and being up close to him, seeing what he does, and the determination that he has to get the most out of the car every day, it's pretty special.”