Scott Dixon is now a six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, and as you’d expect, he’s pretty happy about it. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver captured the 2020 IndyCar title on Sunday (Oct. 25) and put himself in some pretty rarefied air by doing so.
Dixon is the first person since A.J. Foyt to have six IndyCar championships and is now just one Astor Cup behind Foyt for the most titles overall. He’s also the first 40-year-old to win the title in almost two decades, since Nigel Mansell in 1993. The New Zealander also earned his 50th career win in 2020 and his second championship in three seasons.
After the 2020 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Dixon offered his thoughts on his latest title win, the context of racing in a pandemic-shortened and changed season, and the final race that brought home the championship.
Brittany Frederick, Frontstretch: You had a very Scott Dixon-like day to win the 2020 IndyCar title; you drove consistently and stayed out of trouble. What are your thoughts on how you finished the season?
Scott Dixon: I could see some concern on Chip [Ganassi]’s face and some others. I don’t know what they were so worried about. (smiling) We just had a smooth day. That’s all we had to do.
The hardest thing about today was just the restarts. The pace car speed was pretty slow; it was hard to build temperature. That’s the only thing I was really worried about – getting collected or making a small mistake. Seemed most of the others did.
I’ve got to thank everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing for such a tremendous season. Normally we start off a bit slow but we came out of the gate strong as a team on the first four, which was huge. Had many a podium throughout the season. Just so happy for our partners, PNC, NTT, Huski Chocolate, everybody that’s involved. NTT, so proud of them, to pull up and be such a big part of our series.
I’m over the moon. Six sounds a lot better than five, so I’m definitely over the moon.
FS: St. Petersburg hasn’t been very kind to you – it’s the rare track you haven’t won at – so does it feel better to be able to celebrate a championship here, if not a race victory?
Dixon: That’s what I was thinking. We’ve led races here, are we going to have another bad luck situation? I was really bummed in qualifying because I felt like the car had speed. We just couldn’t turn it on quick enough. We had brake problems all day. Once I hit this morning on track, the car was just fantastic, once we pledged every part on the car that was to the brakes.
I love this track. I love what Kim [Green] and Kevin [Savoree] do here, the mayor; everybody embraces the race here. It makes a huge difference. It feels really cool to finally celebrate something here. We have a lot of memories here, some of them not so great. It’s nice to be in this situation to celebrate it with loved ones – my family here today, the girls, the team and crew probably later. That’s what it’s all about.
For me it’s just the people that make this possible. This journey that we’ve been on for so long now – 19 years with this team – this is a great way to top it off.
19 seasons together. 🗓
49 victories together. 🥇
6 championships together. 🏆
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) October 25, 2020
FS: Your season started so differently from how it began. You racked up three wins in the first three races, and the season finale came down to you being consistent and managing that points lead. So how does Scott Dixon look back at the season overall? Was it a bit of a roller coaster?
Dixon: I think it’s weird. You see how championships go up and down. Honestly, as a team we didn’t really change anything. Some people think [there was] a bit of complacency. I think you do start to overanalyze things a little bit. I think we had a bit of a curveball at Mid-Ohio, which was tough for us. We think it was something that was out of our control in qualifying one and qualifying two was fine. I pushed the envelope too much and made a mistake myself, which I try to pride myself on not making those mistakes, but I definitely made that mistake.
I think every season is full of ups and downs. It’s the first time I’ve ever led a championship from start to finish. You do have some different pressures, where you have people saying it’s all done, it’s sewn up. You don’t want to fall into that situation but then you start to believe some of those things. We’ve seen how quickly it transforms and how quickly it can change, especially with the likes of Team Penske and Josef [Newgarden]. He’s a two-time champion and a hell of a competitor.
Every weekend is its own battle. It’s very easy to slip into a bit of a rut. You lose a bit of confidence as a driver. The team loses a bit of confidence if there’s been a mistake on pit road or strategy-wise. You have to snap out of it. That’s the hardest thing to do. I truly believe years like ’04 and ’05, where we were just sucking really bad, those are the years I learned the most. It’s all about the amazing people around all of us. We work well as a team…It’s really knowing how to manage those moments when you’re pretty down.
FS: It’s been discussed ad nauseum the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the NTT IndyCar Series and the challenges of racing during it. You mentioned in our previous interview how it sort of colored the way you looked at this year. How much was your ability to adapt key to winning this championship?
Dixon: I think that’s every year. Whether it’s weather conditions, to the situation with the aeroscreen changing the balance of the car quite a lot, to the different tracks, different tires, it evolves all the time.
The hardest part is that we don’t have a lot of testing these days. If you look at the races we go to, you maybe get 45 minutes to an hour practice, straight into the qualifying, then into the race. Definitely been one of those years where you need to roll off the track well or adapt very quickly. This team is very good at adapting. When you look at the different iterations, whether it’s the engine programs to the aero kits to different chassis and things like that, that’s when this team really does well and dominates.[It’s] not just me, but it’s the tools and the people that I have around me that help me specifically with the racing, but the team as a whole is very good at adaptation.
The 2021 IndyCar season begins March 7, 2021 with the 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.