Motorsport: Title quest still fires Dixon

By Eric Thompson

One of New Zealand's most successful sportsmen continues to be driven by the sport he loves. Aucklander Scott Dixon is one of the best IndyCar race drivers the series has seen.

He won the championship in 2003 in his debut season and again in 2008. Two championships in seven years may not seem like much to some folk but along the way, he picked up an Indianapolis 500 title, the first New Zealander to do so, and since 2007 has not finished outside the top three.

Dixon has gone into the last race of the season three times, omitting his series win in 2008, with a chance to win the title.

He is currently third this season, 75 points behind series leader Dario Franchitti and 40 off Will Power, with four races to go starting this weekend at Baltimore, Maryland.

"We've seen the points swing pretty crazy in the last few races," said Dixon from Baltimore. "There's around 210 points on the table and as long as you're not mathematically out of it, you're still in with a chance. There's a good list of races to go - two road courses and two ovals - all tracks we've done well at before."

Some might think all Dixon has to focus on is turning up at a race track on the odd weekend, jump into a race car someone else has prepared for him and go for a blat.

The truth could not be more different.

Every day he has some sort engagement, meeting, television, radio or print interview, sponsor functions and the like.

On top of all that, Dixon spends as much time with his engineers and crew to ensure his trusty Target Chip Ganassi car is primed and ready to go each race weekend.

In his chosen country of competition, Dixon is regarded as a sporting god, as Dan Carter is here - and rightly so. At each of the 17 races, more than 100,000 fans turn up; leaping to 330,000 for the Long Beach event and peaking at the Indianapolis 500.

At this iconic race, part of the Triple Crown of motorsport along with the Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the 24 Hour Le Mans, over 400,000 fans turn up, making it the single biggest one-day sporting event in the world.

Heading towards the sharp end of another season, and in the hunt for a third title, you'd think Dixon had enough on his plate to worry about, but wife Emma is expecting their second child in a matter of weeks.

"She's due any time now. It's exciting but the only thing that makes me nervous is that I might be travelling when it happens. I hope I'll be able to be there, especially for Emma.

"It'll be what it is, and hopefully it'll work out like it did last time [daughter Poppy born hours after the Watkins Glen race in 2009] and everything will be great. Can't wait," he said.

Dixon is not only a family man in his personal life, he's keen to stay with the Ganassi Racing family with whom he started his IndyCar (or CART as it was known back then) racing career in 2002. The following year, Dixon won the newly formed IndyCar championship for Ganassi and has remained there ever since. His contract doesn't run out until the end of 2012 and Dixon wants to stay.

"Contract negotiations won't start until eight months out from the end of this one. I like being part of the family and enjoy working with Chip [Ganassi] and the crew. We all get on very well and I hope to continue the relationship. But you never know in motorsport, all sorts of things can happen and someone else might come along."

Something else the Kiwi driver has to look forward to is a new car next season. Not just for his team, but also the series in general - a completely different package from the current machine.

"We get our new car in October and we're all looking forward to it. It's our first new series car in 10 years, with more power, different engine manufacturers and aero packages. Should be good," said Dixon.

- APNZ

- NZ Herald

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