If Scott Dixon wins a fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship, it stands to reason he’ll react with more than just a shrug and a modest smile.
Until that happens, don’t expect the 38-year-old New Zealander to deviate much from his unmistakably understated demeanor. Calm, cool, chill, that’s the “Ice Man.” If looking for someone who enjoys hearing himself talk, look elsewhere. His economy with words is also a defining characteristic.
How badly does he want to win this championship?
“Yeah, real bad, real bad,” he said with a smile and, true to form, a shrug.
A fifth title would leave Dixon behind only the great A.J. Foyt (seven) for career championships. But where would it rank among his own lengthy list of accomplishments?
“It’s right up at the top,” said the winner of 44 races, which ranks third all-time in Indy car history. “That’s what we’ve got right in front of us right now, so that’s what we’re after.”
Fair enough, but what would it say about the Chip Ganassi Racing champion?
“It says that I did OK this year, if we do win, then we move onto the next year,” he said.
This matter-of-fact perspective was offered before he pulled off “The Great Escape” on Sunday at Portland International Raceway, yet another reminder that it takes a lot to faze this guy. Dixon somewhat avoided sustaining major damage to his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda in a first-lap incident involving seven cars. He restarted 21st, salvaged fifth in the Grand Prix of Portland and widened his points lead by three to 29 on Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.
As the series shifts to a climactic season finale with the double-points INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16, the most obvious assessment is that Dixon’s ability to make the most out of adversity is why he’s on the verge of adding another championship trophy to those earned in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015.
He hasn’t qualified particularly well of late, no better than ninth in the last three races, yet finished fifth, third and fifth.
His worst result in 16 races this season? Twelfth at Iowa. He’s finished sixth or better in 14 races.
Before Portland, Dixon was asked how he could stop Rossi, who had won twice and finished second in his three previous starts to make this a championship chase.
“You’ve just got to worry about your own program,” Dixon said. “They’ve been going fairly risky on strategies, which they kind of have to, to try to pull something off. We’ve just got to keep our head down. If we get too far down the road of watching the competition, it’s going to hinder what we do.”
After Rossi finished eighth at Portland, he was shown a replay of Dixon avoiding danger on that first lap. Rossi shook his head in disbelief.
“Crazy, crazy day,” Dixon admitted. “That was probably the most adverse race as far as crap going on.”
So now he’s in an ideal scenario entering the final race because he controls his own destiny. Check that, he could be better off.
“The best would be going in with about a 106-point lead,” Dixon said, referring to the advantage he would have needed to clinch the title. “Hey, we got super lucky (at Portland). You got to take those days. We've been on the other side of it before. Some situations we've lost championships like that, too. It sucks when you're on the other side.
"Maybe it happens to us at Sonoma. We hope it doesn't, but it has full potential. You can see the quickest guys today ended up having the biggest problems. We'll go there, we'll try to have the fastest car we can prepare, qualify where we can, put our heads down. That's what we can do.”
Although he’s celebrated so many times in such a rewarding career, including the 2008 Indianapolis 500, Dixon often reminds that he can’t help but dwell more on the near misses as opposed to reveling in the triumphs.
He’ll never forget 2007 at Chicagoland Speedway, where he ran out of fuel on the last lap to lose the championship to Dario Franchitti. Because Franchitti is now a Ganassi driver coach and consultant, Dixon still sees his friend at most races.
“That’s why Dario still buys all my meals,” Dixon said. “I gave him that one.”
He chuckled as reporters laughed, then returned to the sobering reality.
“Those days suck, man,” Dixon said. “You can't do anything about that last corner, last lap of the championship, and to run out of fuel, you lose the championship. That one definitely hurt a lot.
"Got to be in it to win it, man. Dario did a hell of a job. Their team did a hell of a job. It was meant to be.”
Dixon, once again, is in it to win it. Rival Will Power of Team Penske has suggested that it looks like this title is “meant to be” for Dixon.
If so, that would mean the humble one did more than just “OK” this year.
The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma airs live at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 16. Tickets are available at SonomaRaceway.com.