The Victory Lap celebration Tuesday night in Indianapolis provided the INDYCAR community the opportunity to congratulate Scott Dixon once more and punctuate his 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Dixon’s fellow competitors joined in by acknowledging their appreciation to compete against one of the greatest Indy car drivers of all time. Dixon’s five championships rank second in history and his 44 race wins are third.
“As much as I want to dislike Scott because he’s good at everything that he does, I can’t because he’s a pretty awesome dude,” said Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport, who finished second to Dixon in the final standings. “It’s great to race against you, to train with you, to compete against you week in and week out. You deserve this as much as anyone else, so I’m very happy for you.
Rossi was also happy – and a bit envious – for the upcoming release of “BORN RACER,” the feature film about Dixon’s 2017 season.
“Great movie, it’s cool,” Rossi said. “I’d like to have a movie one day, for sure.”
Will Power, who finished third in the championship, has raced against Dixon for a decade and seen up close some of Dixon’s best moments. But even the Team Penske driver was amazed with how Dixon emerged unscathed from a first-lap incident in the penultimate race of the season at Portland International Raceway, salvaging a fifth-place finish to keep his championship drive on course.
“To have five titles is amazing,” Power said. “I think my favorite strategy of yours this season was probably Portland. Get involved in an incident and then go on. I’ve been talking to my team about it. Can we kind of dissect that and somehow get involved in an incident and end up in a good spot.”
Chip Ganassi, for whom Dixon has driven since the fourth race of the 2002 CART season, heaped praise on his most tenured driver, but reminded that it takes a village to win a title.
“I’ve said this many times: Drivers win races, but teams win championships,” Ganassi said. “Dixon does quite a job behind the wheel, but I know there’s a lot of people behind him that help make it happen, too.”
When it was his turn to accept the applause from the crowd gathered at Union 50 Restaurant & Bar, Dixon was quick to disperse thanks of his own, including wife Emma, his crew and team owner.
“Chip, thanks, man,” the 38-year-old from New Zealand said. “I still remember the first meeting with you in 2002. I felt about this big. I’m like, ‘Man, this guy definitely means business.’
“It was overwhelming to go to Target Chip Ganassi Racing at the time and to see that organization and what you have done. Congratulations on so many levels but thank you very much for taking a gamble on me. A 22-year-old punk from New Zealand; I think I had some pretty bad hair at that point, too.
“I can’t thank (team members) enough for the effort you all put in. It really inspires me, it’s what allows me to get out there. To see the effort and the will and the wanting to win makes me push that little bit harder, too.”
Dixon smiled as he thanked Power for the competition and for the inspiring emotions the Team Penske driver showed after winning the Indianapolis 500 in May. He also forewarned the audience that greater things lie ahead for Rossi.
“Your passion from Indy this year, it was so cool to see that. Congratulations,” Dixon said. “I know you’ve been chasing that one for a little bit and how much it means. I think everybody could see that in the replay every time. It’s so cool to see that reaction and that’s what the sport is all about.
“Rossi, you need to slow down a bit, man. You’re coming on strong. … You’re exciting to race, really fun to race with and you’ve got a lot of big things coming.”
The racing continues for Dixon, who was off the following day to Road Atlanta to test the team’s Ford GT for the upcoming Petit Le Mans that closes the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The 2019 IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10.