When rumors surface about your driver’s future – and your driver happens to be the best of his era – what do you do?
If you’re Chip Ganassi, you keep him on board.
Scott Dixon, whose 44 victories rank third in Indy car history, re-enlisted with Chip Ganassi Racing on Monday by signing a multiyear contract extension. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“There are a lot of people who love racing because of what it is, but I love it for its passion and what we’re able to achieve,” Dixon said Monday afternoon after during a media teleconference that also included his boss. “Not very many of us get the opportunity to do what we love with our life. … We all like winning, and that’s what this business is all about. I wouldn’t be here if we weren’t winning.”
Dixon, 38, has won four Verizon IndyCar Series championships and leads the 2018 standings heading into Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, the 14th of 17 races this season. The extension will put him back in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for an 18th season with the team in 2019.
“Scott and I have been together for a long time, and obviously he knows how to win,” Ganassi said. “More importantly, he knows how to win championships. There are guys who can win races, but there are other guys who can win championships. Scott’s proven that. He’s proven that he’s not just a normal, run-of-the-mill driver in any sense.”
In June, Dixon confirmed that he had been talking to Zak Brown, the McLaren Racing CEO who is considering fielding a Verizon IndyCar Series team in 2019. That led to speculation that Dixon was McLaren’s choice to join the team.
"There was some moderate discussion going on, but that’s all it really fell to,” Dixon said. “I have a long history with Chip, and I respect him for what he does and what he’s done for me and the team and what we’ve achieved together.”
Born in Australia and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Dixon recorded his first Indy car victory at Nazareth Speedway as a Championship Auto Racing Teams rookie with PacWest Racing in 2001. Since then, he has won 43 more races, including the Indianapolis 500 in 2008, and all with Ganassi.
Dixon, who joined CGR in 2002, won championships in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. He holds a 46-point lead over Alexander Rossi as the series prepares for Sunday’s race at Pocono.
Earlier this season, Dixon moved past Michael Andretti into third on the all-time list of victories, trailing only A.J. Foyt, who recorded 67 wins, and Mario Andretti, who recorded 52.
“He’s the kind of driver any other team would want to have as their lead driver,” Ganassi said. “On and off the track, he shows that he is the man, as we like to say. He’s the driver that if you were to take a stone and inject some brains into, you’d chisel out Scott Dixon.”
This year, Dixon opened the season with consistently strong finishes that kept him near the points lead. His first win came at Detroit in June. The following week, a win at Texas put Dixon in the lead, which he maintained with the help of a victory last month at Toronto.
“We definitely won’t lie down,” Dixon said of remaining races at Pocono, Gateway Motorsports Park, Portland International Raceway and Sonoma Raceway. “I badly want another championship, and so does the team. The recent news (of the contract extension) gives all of us a good injection to stay focused and make sure we make the most of these opportunities. They don’t come around very often.”
Earlier this summer, rumors about Dixon’s future – and a possible future outside CGR – began to swirl. Last month, Dixon visited Ganassi and indicated the talks with other teams weren’t serious.
“I said, ‘With all this talk about these other teams, is there anything I need to know?’” Ganassi said he asked his driver. “He looked over at me and said, ‘Believe me, if there’s something going on, you’ll be the first to know. We’re OK.’ I said, ‘OK’ and that was the end of it. … I kind of took him at his word, didn’t really pay much attention before that or after that.”
With 300 races on his resume, Dixon says he’s still evolving as a racer.
“I still feel like I’m learning a lot,” Dixon said. “As a driver, I still feel like there are ways I can improve.”
The ABC Supply 500 airs live at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. NBCSN also has live qualifying coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.