Indy Racing League Scott Dixon K. Johnson: I'd now like to welcome IRL IndyCar Series Champion, Scott Dixon. Scott's currently in New York going through our championship celebration proceedings. Scott, good morning, and thanks for joining us ...
Indy Racing League
K. Johnson: I'd now like to welcome IRL IndyCar Series Champion, Scott Dixon. Scott's currently in New York going through our championship celebration proceedings. Scott, good morning, and thanks for joining us today.
Scott Dixon: Thank you for having me.
K. Johnson: Just as a brief background, Scott drives the No 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone for Chip Ganassi Racing. He captured the IndyCar Series Championship with his second-place finish at the season-ending Chevy 500 this past Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Over the 16-race season he registered five pole positions, nine front-row starting slots, three victories, and nine top-five finishes. Scott, looking at your accomplishments, you put together quite a season.
S. Dixon: Yeah, definitely. I think Team Target has been a huge asset this year just with, you know, the innovation and the development that they have, and that is how we stayed on top of things throughout the year. And, every circuit we went to we were extremely competitive, always being the fastest in each session or for the pole position, and I think for a driver, that is something that is very hard to find. You know, to be with a great team is a lot easier on myself, I think. I have been able to learn a lot, I think, you know, this year, basically, from them. It is just going to be great to be back.
K. Johnson: Heading into Sunday's season finale, you were one of five drivers with a mathematical chance of winning the championship. As the race progressed, your contenders seemed to fall back one by one. Were you or the team keeping tabs on where you stood or what was the mindset as the race progressed?
S. Dixon: You know, I think with the race, everybody was looking at the same thing: Everybody was making sure they stayed up front. The good thing about it, I think the five drivers competing for the championship raced the whole race, together, fighting it out, which there was no sort of mix-up in there with other people and things like that. I thought that was pretty cool, just knowing that it was going to come down to the end. It was unfortunate think with Helio (Castroneves) and Tony (Kanaan) when they touched. I think it would have been a superb race to the finish with probably the four of us. I don't know. It's the way it goes. You have got to take it as it comes. And, you know, we have had plenty of those disappointing moments, I think, throughout the year. It's just time for them to have another one. I don't know. All and all, you know, it was kind of strange the way the end of the race finished, with the crash and things like that, but you know, definitely everything went our way on Sunday.
K. Johnson: Following the race on Sunday, you commented that championships are meant to be difficult to win. Overall, how difficult was this championship run for you? As you mentioned, you were fast throughout the season.
S. Dixon: We seemed to have problems just trying to finish these races. You know, we gave up a lot of -- you know, I think three that you can look at quite easily that, you know, I think we would have won, but we weren't there at the end, and we struggled on that for some reason, you know, whether it be some niggly little problem, or manufacturer's defect or something like that. I think, you know, some of the teams might have had problems in bouncing back, but that was the thing with Team Target, we always bounced back. And we -- the thing that kept us going was the speed. We knew that we can compete for the win every weekend.
K. Johnson: Scott, at this time, I'd like to open our forum for questions from the media.
Q: When the morning started, can you go through the emotions of getting ready for this race? How different was it from every other race during the season?
S. Dixon: I think there were a lot of emotions, more so than any other race. I think it was probably the same for each of the five drivers, just because there's the added stress. You knew that, unfortunately, it was coming down to this last race. Everybody worked so hard throughout the year for it to come down to, you know, a couple of hours, was really hard, I thought. I actually, you know, tried to make it just like another race, not thinking too much about it. I think if we prepared enough, and, you know, did our best, that that's all you can do. And just got see how the cards play out. It was more difficult, I think, than any other race I have had just before, you know, the anticipation. I think no matter what, even if we didn't win, would have been a lot of weight off your shoulders, just because the season was over and the lead-up for the three weeks, where we did nothing, you know, made it even worse. Just happy that it's over.
Q: In those last few laps as you guys circled under caution with the crash with your teammate and Kenny Brack, what was going through your mind at that moment and then when they declared it over, how do you celebrate or what was going through your mind?
S. Dixon: I don't know. Like, you know, this year when we've had these small problems with the cars mechanically, on the yellow I am just -- those laps are so long, I am trying to think, "Well, I hope this thing doesn't break." And then you start hearing little noises, you know, things like that. But I don't know, once we had done it, I just, you know, as I said before, I just felt so much lighter; all the pressure was gone. We'd accomplished what we'd wanted to. It was a very cool moment. It's a good feeling, that's for sure.
Q: By the way, what is the response in New Zealand?
S. Dixon: It's huge down there, for sure. The phones aren't stopping. I don't know. It's front page of like three newspapers, lead story on every news program. We definitely got a lot of coverage.
Q: These races are all very exciting for the fans and the media. But are you totally sold on this concept now of oval track racing at these speeds, given what happened to Kenny and what could happen to anybody at any moment, it seems at the IRL kind of races?
S. Dixon: It definitely stops and I think it makes everybody think, you know. The thing is, you look at a crash like Kenny's, that was horrendous, and I am amazed he walked away from that. That just shows, I think how safe the cars are, you know, that that kind of thing was a bit of a freak accident. If it happened anywhere else on the circuit, you know, he probably would have probably jumped right out. But, I don't know, there's going to be plenty of people that knock us, and things like that, but we all understand what we're doing. We love to race, and, sometimes, you know, I think, as everybody does in life, there's consequences for what you do.
Q: Does this affect your plans for next year or do you race in what we call the off-season? Do you take sometime off and get ready for next year?
S. Dixon: To be honest, I don't know. We haven't really looked into it too much. I am still contracted with Team Target; Very happy to be back with them next year. It doesn't really stop, to be honest. We have all this media stuff. And I think Tuesday next week I am testing at the Indianapolis Speedway for Firestone, and then at night I think I am flying to Orlando. Then I have another test. So it just carries on. I will get back to New Zealand. I think I am leaving around the 20th of December, and go back for Christmas and New Years. I think November I might go away and do something as well.
Q: Congratulations, Scott. I can't help to think when you started your career way back when, not that far back for you, did you ever see yourself winning a driver's championship on an open-wheel Series on ovals and driving in America?
S. Dixon: I probably wouldn't have picked it, definitely not. I wouldn't have picked it last year. You know, I think it was a hard move to come over to the IRL, with the all-oval experience. But I don't know, it's one of those things and with motorsport, it is hard to determine what you are going to do from one day to the next. So, definitely surprised, but totally enjoyed this year, you know, thoroughly. It was definitely an experience, and you know, life, I think, takes different steps for most people, but for myself and I think for a lot of the other drivers, they all come from great racing backgrounds, probably never thought they would be doing the same. I am sure you'd ask Tony and Helio and they'd say the same thing. I don't know. A lot of fun, I think, so far.
Q: If you can think back, reflect over your career thus far, what do you think has prepared you most for this type of racing? You made it look easy. Certainly, I realize from listening to you, it wasn't easy, but with five poles and three victories and top-five finishes, you seem to make it look easy.
S. Dixon: Yeah, you know, I think the team made it easier for me. I think every sort of class of racing, starting go-karts on, it all adds up, it's experience. Everyday you are learning in this kind of racing, and I think the biggest turnaround point for me was joining Team Target midway through last year. And being with, you know, a first-grade team, you learn so much more, just from the R&D (research and development), the plans that they have for the future. And, it's great to be with someone that is always looking forward. They are not looking back, and they don't dwell on the down moments. They just keep moving forward. I think every year that you race, you learn something and that's definitely the key to helping you get through. I think the biggest turning point, looking at Indy Lights, or something like that, the first time I was ever on an oval, I learned a lot those first couple of years.
Q: Regards to how you celebrated on Sunday night, did you get to go out with the guys, Tony Kanaan, and your other racing colleagues just to discuss how the race unfolded? How did you celebrate?
S. Dixon: Yeah, I didn't get back to the hotel until pretty late. Then ended up having dinner and stuff and, because Gil (de Ferran) had his retirement party at the same hotel, it got a little hectic. I ended up getting thrown in the pool by Tony and Helio and all those guys. It was a lot of fun, especially for Gil, and it was a really good night.
Q: In terms of the events as the race ended, the horrific crash, as a driver, how do you keep an event like that from affecting you, and your ability to get back on the track again?
S. Dixon: As I said just before, it's what we love to do. We know that, you know, that there's consequences like that. I have experienced it at the start of the year - not as horrific as Kenny's crash -- but I crashed in Motegi pretty hard. It makes you think. Everybody's is human. You know, you go, "Is this the right thing?" But I think the cars are safe. People still walk away from these things. I don't know, it does make you think, but I think most of us just carry on.
Q: You talked about the three-week interval between Fontana and this race. How grinding was that, upsetting was that to just have to go through that and the buildup and all that?
S. Dixon: Yeah, the first week you sort of relax, and you are like, "Oh, you know, it was good, you just got off a weekend of racing." The problem is the next couple of weeks, then you are talking to everybody, and they keep asking you, you know, "Is the pressure getting to you?" Things like that. The drag-on was definitely big. I don't know, you just keep thinking about different scenarios, and it was a difficult couple of weeks, I think, toward the end, just the anticipation, I would have loved to been straight off to California knowing to just get the thing over with. I think that's what everyone was interested in. In having closure on the season.
Q: Saw a note on the internet somewhere saying that now you are ready for F1. I know that you have mentioned before that that was a dream. But does it make it even more of a reality today?
S. Dixon: You know, I think championships are definitely, you know, something great to have on your bio. It's hard to say how that's going to affect the future, you know, be it Formula 1. I think, obviously, we are communicating with those teams. At the moment, probably not until the next week or something, we'll see if anything plays out on that sort of front end. But we'll keep working towards it, but it's all hearsay until we actually know what we're talking about.
Q: I would imagine that Paul may be there accepting your calls or returning your calls with a little more eagerness now that you have this on your resume?
S. Dixon: I don't know, we have been doing a pretty good job all year. We have had great meetings with them, and Monza and the U.S. Grand Prix, and things like that. We have always had communication with them and a lot of the guys are great people to talk to and things like that. They always return the call or they always call us, but yeah, I am sure, it definitely helps.
Q: When Penske came into the IRL, everyone was ready to give the next five championships to them; certainly the first one or two. They haven't won yet. Does that talk about the competitiveness of racing in the IRL?
S. Dixon: It does, for sure. I think Penske is a great team. They have won the last three Indianapolis 500's, but I don't know, they just don't seem to be able to put it together with all the circuits, things like that. I think they have had a fairly consistent year. They just haven't been very fast. It does show that it is very tough, and I am sure they are going to be trying very hard next year to make it up. I just think that the thing that's helped us this year is that we have been fast everywhere we have gone. That's a pretty hard thing to do.
Q: When you went from Pac West to Ganassi, your world literally changed, didn't it? You were sitting there wondering what is going to happen next and now within a year you are sitting with the championship?
S. Dixon: Yeah, joining Team Target was definitely, I think just from the knowledge and the experience that they have, it's definitely a good feeling to be involved in an organization like that, I think. It's just so much easier for the driver, I think, and it's just, I don't know, makes it a lot easier on you.
K. Johnson: I know as part of your championship obligations, you are in New York City today, I believe to do a taping with the David Letterman show; is that correct ?
S. Dixon: Yeah, that's later this afternoon. Just checking out New York at the moment.
K. Johnson: Any thoughts going into Letterman tonight? Think he's going to pull anything crazy on you?
S. Dixon: I don't know, I think we're meant to do a call with them shortly. I can't imagine, some of it will be, you know, a little bit of talk will be about Kenny (Brack's) accident because of Dave being involved with that. It will be good.
K. Johnson: Scott, we'll let you get back to your duties and obligations there. But congratulations on your championship season and we certainly look forward to having you back on the circuit next year.
S. Dixon: Thank you very much.