IRL: Scott Dixon press conference

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript July 1, 2003 Scott Dixon K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Conference Call for this week, Tuesday, July 1st. Today we visit with IRL IndyCar Series driver Scott ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
July 1, 2003

Scott Dixon

K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Conference Call for this week, Tuesday, July 1st. Today we visit with IRL IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon. We would like to welcome IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon. Scott is the driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, and he will be looking for his third-consecutive IndyCar Series victory this weekend at the Kansas Indy 300. He is the series' only multiple winner this year. He earned a victory in the season-opening event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, then recorded back-to-back wins at Pikes Peak International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway. Evidence of his recent dominance is the fact that he has led the last 290 laps of IndyCar Series' competition, including a flag-to-flag 206 laps in winning the SunTrust Indy Challenge this past Saturday night. That marked the first time in IndyCar Series history that the driver has led every lap of a race. Scott, good morning and thanks for joining us today.

S. Dixon: Thank you.

K. Johnson: Let's start with your absolutely dominating performance at Richmond. I mean, you led every practice session. You started from pole and won the race. It had to be a dream weekend for a driver. Tell us about it.

S. Dixon: For sure. It is definitely the way everybody wants to do it, especially for the team. I think it started probably a month before the race with having such a good test, and things like that, at Richmond. Then it just seemed like once we rode off the truck, there was not a whole lot that we needed to do to the car. It was fast and efficient. There was no real big difference, except we needed it and obviously the competition is very tight. It is very hard to ever achieve something like that. I think it was just our weekend, and everything we did went right.

K. Johnson: And with that win coming on the heels of your victory at Pikes Peak, you enter this weekend's Kansas Indy 300 with the opportunity to win three consecutive IndyCar Series events, and that is something that has only happened once before, and that was by Kenny Brack back in 1998. Is that a goal for you?

S. Dixon: For sure. Every race we go in to, we want to win, so if we could win three in a row or four in a row, we would love to do it. I think that is really hard at that moment, especially this year with, as I said, with the competition that there is. It very hard to come by that, where you get a weekend when you dominate like we did there. I think it was a combination of having a very good car, and I really enjoyed the circuit, whereas Kansas, I think, you are going to have to rely a little more on the car for qualifying and things like that, where it is not so much driver involvement. But if there is any chance that we could do it, and, as I said, we want to go out every race and try winning every race we compete in. It would be nice to definitely do three in a row.

K. Johnson: Obviously, with your performances the past couple weeks you have become the center of attention around Team Target, but the fact is, you go back to Texas where Tomas Scheckter was on the pole and you were on the front row. The team, as a whole, has been performing quite well; it is just that Tomas has had some misfortune from time to time.

S. Dixon: Yes, for sure. As you said, for the team as a whole it was the same sort of deal with me in Phoenix, with the gearbox and things like that. But Tomas, everybody gets their fair share, but he seems to get everybody's fair share of bad luck. And I feel real bad for the guy. Hopefully, it turns here real quick, because both cars and this team and things like that are very strong, and Tom is definitely going to win a race here very shortly.

K. Johnson: Your success the past two races has really positioned you to make the run at Tony Kanaan's points lead. He had a 48-point gap a week ago. You have cut it down 27 points. What is your approach to the points race in the drivers' championship?

S. Dixon: I think, early in the season you can go out there and try and win every race. And I think -- I don't know. This series, you look at it, it seems like consistency pays a lot better. Tony, that is all he has done. He has won a race, but he is probably been top five every other time, except for around Motegi. He just really started to pull away from me when he had the points chase, so I don't know. I think that is what we have to look at is being a lot more consistent. We have had three wins, but we have also had three or four DNF's, which is where we are hurting. So I do not know, now I think we will basically just race for points as opposed to trying to really dominate all and take chances to win.

K. Johnson: Well Scott, let's go ahead and open our conference call to questions from our media.

Q: Hi, Scott. Thanks for joining us today. I understand that you have said before that you really like the 1-mile long and smaller circuits. This weekend coming up, you are going to be on a 1.5-mile track. Can you tell me how you feel your strategy might be different in the longer tracks like the 1.5-mile at Kansas, and also Kentucky Speedway and Sparta that will be coming up in August?

S. Dixon: I think, recently, we just had a good taste of both of those circuits. In Kansas, we did, I think, like 850 miles or something just recently for a Firestone tire test. I think we really worked on the car. At Texas, I was not very comfortable with what we had done. I think we tried to reinvent the wheel a little before the race, whereas maybe we should have just stayed practical and done more of what I think Tomas did, Tomas and his engineer did for the race. So, there are a few different ways to look at it. The thing I don't like is, in qualifying there is not a whole lot of challenge of the driver. Basically, you just go flat and hopefully your car has got the more horsepower or got the less drag and things like that, and you will get in the pole. Whereas the race it is a little different. You might be flat out, but it is definitely very challenging to get the strategy right and make sure that you are going to be in the right place at the right time come the end. I don't know, I am looking forward to it. All these races are very exciting and I think, maybe, especially for the fans, these 1.5-mile circuits with the banking and things like that, it definitely puts on a great show.

Q: I understand also that your parents were into racing and actually owned a speedway in Queensland. Can you tell a little bit about their experience and how they were in racing to begin with?

S. Dixon: My dad pretty much did all kinds, from like club races to a bit of rallying and things like that. But it was more like a club level. My mother really got into it, I think, once my parents met and then they moved to Australia, basically, and then got into racing over there and they ended up getting the Townsville Speedway in Queensland. I think that was probably for four years or so, and then they ended up selling that. But they threw out, I think, my father's licensing agreement to racing, too, which did turn my mother into it, and it is just been a huge family influence for me.

Q: What do they think of your career?

S. Dixon: They love it. I think any parent, when they see talent in their kids, they try to push them or help them. My parents definitely helped support me to no end. I learned a lot from what they have done. And, you know now, I think last year they spent most of the season over here and watched it. They get a big kick out of that.

Q: Congratulations on the way you are running out in front. What I want to ask is, last year when your car owner said he was going to the Indy Racing League, Chip told you that, what were your reaction and thoughts about it?

S. Dixon: I think most of the time you could sort of see that play out. I think for a lot of the people that have been in CART, they are obviously a little biased against that. But I think so much of us, we wanted to race, and we all needed jobs, that is the way it planned out. But it was a little hard, I think, for some of us because we come from a road-course background and things like that, and weren't real sure about an all-oval series. But, as I said many times, this year I have completely enjoyed myself from even preseason testing in the series, and I think it comes down to the package that I have and the racing that the IRL has. I think I got my first taste of a lot of fun at Homestead. Coming from 12th to win the race was something that I would never been able to do, or probably anybody else in CART, of the years that I was in there.

Q: Well, Scott, when you came to America you were basically a road racer; is that right?

S. Dixon: Yes, my first oval was '99 Homestead.

Q: You, and like Arie Luyendyk, came over here the same way and became a dominant oval racer. What is it that a guy can make that transition and find that maybe he is better on the ovals than he was on the road courses?

S. Dixon: I don't know. It is probably hard to pinpoint, but I think most guys that have been successful got on road courses then transitioned to ovals, I don't know. It is hard to say, but I think you either like them or you don't. If you like them you are going to do well, and it is hard to, I am not really sure how to say why we are better or worse or anything like that.

Q: You probably have not followed it, but you have set kind of, and are in the verge of setting, all kinds of records for laps led and that kind of thing, consecutively. Do you think about records at all?

S. Dixon: I don't know, records are always nice to break or to have. The only thing we want to do this year though is win the championship. If we break a lot of records on the way to doing that, that is great.

Q: Well, last Saturday night you were out in front, and the rain was coming in. Did you want the race to go to the distance, or were you just happy to see the red flag, the rain and the red flag?

S. Dixon: I would have liked to have seen it go to the end, to the 250 laps. I think you asked me whether I would have won it just because of the race being short and all, because of the rain or something like that, so I think I would have liked to seen it go the distance. I don't know if it would have made any difference or how it would have played it out, but I think I would have liked it.

Q: And how is your, in the last couple three years with Chip, how is your relationship developed with him?

S. Dixon: It has been good. I think it has been fairly good from the start. I have never had a problem with Chip. I think he runs a great operation. He runs a great team, and that is why he is very successful. He has all the right elements and people in place, I think, to achieve what he is achieving. I respect him greatly for what he does.

Q: Scott it sounds like you picked up a cold in Victory Lane during the rain the other night.

S. Dixon: Yes, I feel terrible. Sorry.

Q: That is OK. When you are running, and the car is running and everything is clicking as well as it is, do you almost get the sense of invincibility?

S. Dixon: I don't know. I guess you do for maybe, like looking at the weekend in Richmond, you look at that and, after the first session, you are like, 'Well, we are going to have a great weekend.' But, I think at any time you start to get too confident or look past things, that is going to bite you in the ass. The team, in general I think, is very confident. The drivers and myself, we have to be very confident. I don't know, if you are too cocky some things are not going to work out.

Q: And then you go to a racetrack like Kansas, where you are going to be dealing with totally different elements than what you had in Richmond, everything from the track itself to weather. Do you at that point go, 'How long will our luck hold out and do we have to work harder to stay where we are?'

S. Dixon: I think we have to work hard every week. I think with the series, we obviously have these changes all throughout the year with different circuits, different conditions and all those kinds of things. That is why you know the person who wins the championship at the end has done the best job. I think they work the hardest, and they had the most consistent run through the year. And that is what we have to do. It is not like you probably cannot take a whole lot from Richmond say to Kansas. We have done a lot of preseason testing and things like that to hopefully help our chances, like we did in Richmond. It might be a different story, but we just have to take it as it comes.

Q: Great. Appreciate it. Get over that cold.

S. Dixon: I will try. Thanks.

Q: Hey, Scott, you have been talking about winning this championship. Do you have any ultimate goals in mind beyond, let's say it is June of 2004 and you have won the IndyCar Series title and let's say hypothetically that you win the Indy 500? Where do you go from there?

S. Dixon: I think in motorsports it is pretty hard to sort of pan out what you are going to do. But I don't know. Those are the main two things on my mind at the moment, the same with Chip and Team Target. Ultimately, down the road I think for most drivers, is to get a test or get a crack at Formula One. At the moment, we are just focusing on what we have, and maybe long term that is something we would get a go at.

Q: Anybody nibble at you from Formula One at this point?

S. Dixon: No, not really. We just keep talking to everybody.

Q: Hope you get an opportunity anyway. Thank you.

S. Dixon: Thanks.

K. Johnson: Scott, prior to the season-opening event at Homestead-Miami Speedway you had not competed on an oval track, and now you have half a season under your belt. The Kansas race this week will be the midway point of our IndyCar Series season, and you have raced on a 2.5-mile flat oval. You tested out at Fontana on a big, banked oval. You won going away on the ¾-mile bullring at Richmond. Have you developed a sense for which type of track you prefer? Do you have a favorite spot you have been to yet?

S. Dixon: I don't know, I enjoy the shorter ones. I think any of the small circuits, or even Richmond, I think. I don't know, like even the flat track at Homestead was a lot of fun, even though they are changing it. I like the circuits where it is not easy to be flat out and you have to drive and set up the car to its ultimate, whereas you know Texas and places like that it only really comes down to the race. In preparation, you just try to trim the car out as much possible and things like that. But all of them are a lot of fun to race on, but I would say that probably the 1-mile and shorter is what I really enjoy at the moment.

K. Johnson: Scott, we appreciate you joining us today. We certainly have enjoyed watching you perform the last couple weeks and we certainly wish you the best of luck this weekend at Kansas.

S. Dixon: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi