Scott Dixon has come a long way from when he couldn’t help but be a bit intimidated in his first meeting with team owner Chip Ganassi.
“I felt about this big,” Dixon said, holding his fingers close together, describing that 2002 introduction with the man who has become one of the most legendary owners in motorsports.
The reigning five-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion from New Zealand has since become known as the “Ice Man” for his confident composure in a race car. But that also applies to how Dixon handles himself off track.
On a September night when Dixon and Ganassi were celebrated for their 2018 accomplishments during the Victory Lap Celebration at Union 50 in Indianapolis, Ganassi shared a conversation he had with his driver during the summer.
Ganassi had become aware of media reports in June that McLaren had contacted Dixon to inquire about the 38-year-old champion driving for the potential new team in the Verizon IndyCar Series next season.
“I said, ‘Every day in the newspaper, there’s all this stuff about McLaren this and McLaren that and Scott Dixon. Is there anything we need to talk about?’” Ganassi said he asked Dixon.
The “Ice Man” calmly assured his boss not to worry.
“He said, ‘No, if there’s ever anything to talk about, you’ll be the first to know,’” Ganassi said. “I said, ‘OK. We’re OK?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’re OK.’ And that was the end of it. (Laughs.) I haven’t talked to him about it since.”
Who wouldn’t be interested in Dixon, whose 44 wins rank third on Indy car’s all-time list. But during that championship celebration, he reiterated his gratitude to Ganassi for giving him a chance many years ago. And in addition to all of Dixon’s noteworthy traits, he’s loyal.
“The ‘Born Racer’ movie described him as the glue of the team, and he really is,” said Barry Wanser, Chip Ganassi Racing's team manager of competition, in reference to the recently released Dixon documentary.
“That’s why he’s been here for 17 years. We’ve had changes in (other) drivers and the team, but Scott has been the solid guy. Scott gives his all and all of us are motivated to give our all. It really adds up to the overall morale of the team and performance of the team. When we have some luck, we’re fortunate to have championships. For him to get his fifth is really amazing.”
The movie has received rave reviews. The September premiere in downtown Indianapolis was so popular, even Ganassi was limited in his ticket allotment.
“I was only allowed eight tickets,” he said. “The movie was great.
“If you wrote a book or did a movie, Scott is the character you want, that’s the guy you want. He’s that way on the track, off the track, at home and in the office, the race shop. He’s just the kind of guy you would want to have. It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow up from a 21-year-old kid to be a young man who has practically done it all.”
It goes without saying, nobody has enjoyed Dixon more than Ganassi.
“Yes, he has been a lot of fun,” he said.
Not that Dixon is thinking about the end of the road. Quite the contrary, he was already looking ahead this night to the 2019 season. He was one of six drivers who tested tires and aero parts Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before flying off to New Zealand for his home nation’s “Born Racer” premiere.
Dixon the competitor is always looking ahead. And his motivation might come as a bit of a surprise.
“For me, it’s always been that I don’t want to disappoint: I don’t want to disappoint my family, I don’t want to disappoint my parents, I don’t want to disappoint the people that allowed this opportunity to happen,” he said. “Not a lot of people get this opportunity, so you want to make the most of it.
“It’s a tight racing community. We all spend a lot of time together. We might have some disagreements here and there where you might not get along for a while, but it’s never malicious and never on purpose. I love being part of this family and I hope I’m here for a lot longer. I just want to enjoy the moment that I’m in and the people that I’m surrounded with, to work in an industry with so much talent.”