Drivers talk Olympic Games

Scott Dixon has some racing business to attend to within the fortnight before setting aside his Target Chip Ganassi Racing cap for one with the New Zealand flag emblazoned on the front.

A break in the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule following the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio aligns with the final week of the London Olympics, so the two-time series champion and his wife, Emma -- a former 800-meter runner who represented Wales and Great Britain in international competition – will soak up the sights of the Summer Games.

“London at the best of times is a pretty crazy town, and now with the Olympics going on it will be pretty cool),” said Dixon, who will attend his first Olympic Games. “I know we’ll be at the Thursday track and field events and the finals Saturday (Aug. 12, which includes the women’s 800-meter final). Track and field is definitely the marquee event outside of the opening and closing ceremonies.”

Watch it: Go behind the scenes with Scott and Emma Dixon

He hopes to see the New Zealand flag raised above the medal podium.

“New Zealand is big in rowing and they’ll be strong this year in the triathlon with Bevan Docherty (plus Kris Gemmell and Ryan Sissons),” Dixon said. “We have quite a few competitors that are strong and I’ll try to get to a few of those events.”

Drivers note as they watch fellow athletes perform on the world stage – especially in competition that revolves every four years – they appreciate not only the abilities but the dedication to their particular sport. IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers will – like most living in North America – have their TVs or mobile devices tuned in to the action.

NBC Sports Network, the cable home of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, will carry much of the Games programming. Opening ceremonies are July 27.

“I love the Olympic Games even though Colombia is not usually at the top,” said Firestone Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz, who won the Edmonton 100 last weekend. “I will love to watch, especially the 100 and 200 meters. The running for me is incredible. I love sports because as a driver you have to be an athlete outside of the car.”

The sports that interest drivers are widespread. Some, such as Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson, pay particular attention to cycling (road and pursuit) because it’s an integral part of the in- and off-season conditioning. Others enjoy the Games for the pure athleticism or get hooked on sports that aren’t in the mainstream.

“Gymnastics is amazing,” Oriol Servia said. “What they can do and how the cameras can capture how nervous they are beforehand. That emotion is translated through the TV very well.”

“My favorite Summer Olympics sport is archery,” Firestone Indy Lights driver Peter Dempsey of England said. “I’m really good at it in the video games, and I like to watch the professionals do it and see how good they are at it.”

“Swimming. Just seeing (Michael) Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte chase the records is fun,” Graham Rahal said. “Being an American I follow it all. I really want to see other Americans succeed, and as a country we’ve done fairly well in the Summer and Winter Games. It’s a good time to be a fan of a lot of sports.”

“I have a lot of respect for weightlifting and the history around it,” Firestone Indy Lights driver Sebastian Saavedra of Colombia added. “I love swimming. Anything in the water is just amazing and I have a lot of respect for those guys. Unfortunately, we’re not big in sports in my country. We have soccer, now some (auto) racing, and that’s about it.”

More athletes represent Simona de Silvestro’s homeland of Switzerland in the Winter Games (in 2014 in Sochi, Russia), but national pride swells no matter the season.

“I definitely watch the tennis, because Roger (Federer) is playing,” she said. “Usually when the Olympic Games are on it’s on my TV all the time. We definitely don’t have that many Swiss athletes in the Summer Games, but it’s always cool to support your country.”