Indy 500: Press conference: Dixon, Wheldon, part 1

An interview with Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon Indy Racing League Press Conference Transcript THE MODERATOR: We're here with two men who will fire off on the front row, one on the front row, Scott Dixon, both IndyCar Series champions in ...

An interview with Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon
Indy Racing League Press Conference Transcript

THE MODERATOR: We're here with two men who will fire off on the front row, one on the front row, Scott Dixon, both IndyCar Series champions in their career. Dan already a winner of the Indianapolis 500.

Gentlemen, I guess one of the questions, Scott you were the quickest in limited time yesterday, you obviously have good cars. The rain is hampering the practice. One line of thought would be, We've got the best car, so what, let's let it rain till race day and fire off. Any sentiment like that?

SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. You know, obviously we've got good cars. Target has done a fantastic job of preparing them. For us, we still need track time.

Yesterday, I think, it's pretty much who gets the biggest tow. I think myself, Dan and Marco (Andretti) were pretty lucky we got it early on. I think yesterday a lot of us didn't think they were going to be running. It was good to get out on track.

I think the limited time we have had on track has probably helped us in reference to the guys had to make the transition, some of the other guys are struggling. But we're still struggling in some areas, and we need to work on those. So any track time is going to help us, but it's going to help anybody.

THE MODERATOR: Dan, you've won the race. There's been other times when it looked like you might have been the man to beat. You know as well as anyone how many variables have to go your way to be the final one to cross the finish line, checkered flag.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, certainly seems to be a very competitive race this year. I think when you consider that the speed of the 11th-place person, after Pole Day, was still pretty impressive. They were a very good four laps. And so I think it's unfortunate with the rain. I think the biggest thing the rain affects is the fans. But it seems there's been a great turnout for a lot of days running that we've had, or even not had.

But for us personally, I think we need to -- we definitely had great cars in qualifying, and certainly the team deserve a lot of credit for that. To have two cars on the front row of the grid, two cars that happen to be first and second is a difficult feat to accomplish when you consider that everybody's using the same engine and everybody's using the same chassis. They've certainly done their homework and continue to work hard.

But I think as we all know, qualifying and racing around this place are two totally different things. And now our focus is very much switched to having good racecars and having consistent racecars and having race cars that work in traffic. It seems that you're going to be in traffic a lot, certainly this year.

Yeah, like you say, I've had great race cars where I thought I would dominate, like in 2006. I think we led over three-quarters of the race. It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. You need just to have a mistake-free day. You need to have a car that's fast out front, but also very good in traffic.

We're working towards all those things. But it's just very difficult to accomplish at Indianapolis.

Q: Scott, your dad spots for a rival team. Do you ever send a message up to your spotter to have him get his driver out of the way when you're lapping him?

SCOTT DIXON: I will say he's the easiest car to pass on track. I don't know what he says to Jay (Howard). Obviously it's changed to John (Andretti). I don't think John will agree with that as much.

But, no, I don't know what dad says to them. I don't think -- he's just doing his job.

Q: Your first run was last Saturday, it was the most consistent four laps ever run here in qualifying. A lot of other guys had very consistent runs all day long. You talk about consistency for the race. Does that translate at all from qualifying to the race as far as running consistent laps?

SCOTT DIXON: I guess some of it does. As I said earlier, probably right after that, when I thought the timing or whatever we have in the car, on the steering wheel, was broken, because it did read the same number for three laps, and it changed on the last one. I said, Oh, maybe it's not broken.

For here I think because any kind of gust of wind or anything that changes throughout the corner, and obviously the tires get worse over the run, you burn a bit of fuel off, you'd think the laps would change, or they do change quite a bit. You saw that later on in the day.

I think at that point we were pretty conservative. When you've got a car that's got a lot of grip, it's easier to keep it doing the same thing. I think that's why we had that situation.

But four laps opposed to a run where you're going to be doing 30 to 35 laps on a tank in the race, you're not going to have anything close to that. I think if you can have that early open, it's nice. But that just showed how much grip we had in the car. I think that was similar to people who ran earlier in the day, had the same consistency. Once you start to trim out, the car is much harder to drive, it's much harder to keep more consistent, and it definitely falls off on the last few laps.

Q: Talk about the competition between you two in the team, week to week, each qualifying session, each race?

DAN WHELDON: You know, it's obviously intense. We're very competitive individuals. I think one of the important things to address in a matter like that is the fact that we've been given very competitive equipment and you want to make the most of that.

As drivers, you understand, particularly with the environment the way it is right now in IndyCar racing, that any on-track time that you have, you have to make the most of. I think over the years our relationship has definitely continued to improve to the point where I think we're able to drive the team forward. And I think that's what you're seeing right now. I mean, we've both been very close to winning championships in the last couple years, and unfortunately have come up short. This year we're very intent on trying to put that right. That goes for The Championships and the Indianapolis 500.

I think we definitely push each other very hard. I think when you look at qualifying, if I'd have run a certain degree of rear wing, Scott would have taken out a little bit more. If he'd have got the part, I would have done the same thing. But that's good. That's very healthy competition. There's a lot of respect I have for Scott. To be quite frank, on Pole Day, I gave it all I had, just came up short. So that's unfortunate. But at the same time it's great for the team. I expect we'll both be very strong for the race.

Q: Doesn't apply to either of you now, but if you were on the outside looking in, had not qualified, what number would you think it would take to make the field this year?

SCOTT DIXON: I'm useless at that. I have no idea. I think it should be over 220, right? I don't know. I haven't seen what the last sort of five, six cars' speed-wise are looking at.

DAN WHELDON: I think that might be kind of exciting, though. A lot of people don't know what they need to do. But I tell you what that is going to make for, it's going to make for a difficult race. Because a lot of those people are not sure. And then they're probably working on qualifying simulations. It's amazing around here. Like if you're not working in traffic, seeing how your car does perform, when that race comes around, if you're stuck in the middle or the back of the pack, it's not nice.

When I started 16th, I think of after the first three laps I radioed in and I said, Listen, I hate it back here, let me get to the front fast. It's too difficult. Like the car becomes very unpredictable. It's much nicer to run up front.

Q: Do you feel like you guys maybe have a little bit of a mental edge? Saturday you're the two fastest cars on the track. Four days without hardly any activity. Yesterday you're out there half an hour, you're still the two fastest. All the other teams going through the frustration and anxiety of wishing they had more track time, do you think it's defeating for them to see that you are still the fastest when you have that limited track time yesterday?

SCOTT DIXON: I think it helps your confidence level for sure. If you can go out there and consistently think you're going to be at the top, not necessarily the fastest, but in the first few, I think it helps you mentally for the race. That's for sure.

It's kind of a fine line, especially at Indy. You got to be aware of respecting the place, too. I think if you get too overconfident, start doing stupid shit, it will bite you pretty quick. That's my thought on it.

I think it helps. Each day you're quick, for sure it helps. But it can get away quick from you as well.

DAN WHELDON: I think personally, I don't want to sound old, but I've been to this place enough now where I've seen the quickest car year after year not win the race. It's very, very rare that the quickest car wins the race here. Kanaan was very quick last year. In fact, to be quite honest, I thought Kanaan had a very dominant month last year. He didn't win the race. You look at us in 2006, we won quick in pole day, in the race we had a dominant racecar, didn't win the race. I just doesn't work like this.

That's what makes the Indianapolis 500 the Indianapolis 500, because it's so unpredictable.

Q: Scott, talking with Dan and T.K., they both have been expounding this month a little bit on family life, how that's kind of changed them as people, not in the racecar but outside the racecar. How about you? Have you noticed a difference in yourself since you got married?

DAN WHELDON: His bank balance has gone down half (laughter).

SCOTT DIXON: I keep saying my bar bill's a lot cheaper, though (laughter).

You know, I think you change a little bit. But for me personally I think it's been definitely for the good. I think I've come out a little bit. Emma is not -- not out of the closet (laughter). But in my talkativeness, personality a little bit.

DAN WHELDON: I really hope you haven't. Changing in the same room.

SCOTT DIXON: But, no, I don't think you should change too much. I think you should definitely be the same. How I am at the racetrack and away from the racetrack is definitely different. But I think you change. I'm getting older. I know I'm a bit wiser, I hope. You know, I wouldn't say -- no, I'd just say everything's changed for the good. And it hasn't been a lot. I just keep getting back to the point that everybody says, When you get married, do you change a lot? I don't think you should. I think it's been pretty similar for myself. It's just I've got better in certain areas.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon