Scott Dixon shines in masterful final drive in Rolex win
Scott Dixon’s teammates spent the final three hours of the Rolex 24 at Daytona raving about his talent while watching him seal a victory in one of the most prestigious endurance races in the world.
The three-time IndyCar champion would take none of the credit.
Dixon, who carried the heaviest load for Chip Ganassi Racing’s four-driver lineup, insisted Sunday’s win was a team effort that included many people from Ganassi’s sprawling organization. But there’s a reason Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray, Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan and NASCAR’s newest hotshot, Kyle Larson, didn’t spend too much time worrying about the outcome during Dixon’s lengthy final stint in the car.
They knew The Iceman would get the job done.
”It’s really hard to appreciate the talent that guys have from other series until you race with them,” McMurray said. ”It’s crazy the pace that Scott is able to have in the car. I think Scott is one of the most talented guys in the field. He’s an incredible driver.”
The praise also came from Larson, who improved from his underwhelming debut last season by learning from Dixon, and Kanaan, who has raced against Dixon for 14 seasons.
”I got beaten by Scott for a long time,” Kanaan said. ”He’s a very, very smart and complete race car driver. He can adapt to anything. It’s unbelievable how he can make a bad car still be fast, and I think that’s something that I try to learn from him every time I watch him.”
There was no need for Dixon to carry the team in the twice-round-the-clock race around Daytona International Speedway. The Ganassi group brought a pair of strong cars to the race and both set the pace early.
Had the clutch not broken in the homestretch on the No. 01, that Scott Pruett-led car might have been racing for the win in the final hour.
The Dixon-led No. 02 ”star car” had no major issues, and, still in contention after daybreak, it became clear they’d use the New Zealander to close out the race. Larson drove an abbreviated stint and stayed in the car only long enough to make Dixon eligible to finish the race.
IMSA rules state a driver can only be in the car for a total of four total hours in a six-hour period, and Dixon climbed in with 3 hours, 32 minutes remaining.
It was a long final stint for Dixon, who drove three times for more than seven hours during the 24-hour race. His task in that final stretch was to conserve fuel, maintain the pace and follow strategy to give Ganassi its record sixth victory in the race.
He did it with what appeared to be ease, and seemed fresh and ready to drive another three hours as he celebrated in victory lane.
”It’s not easy whatsoever. I feel the load just as much as any of these guys,” Dixon said. ”Pressure is what you make of it, and as long as you get out of the car and you know you’ve done the best that you could, you should be happy with that. I think for all of us here this weekend, the best that we did was good enough to get the victory.”
Dixon, so selfless and so content for so many years in the shadow of famous former teammate Dario Franchitti, cares far more about final results than accolades.
But Dixon has earned any praise heaped his way for steadily building one of the most prolific careers in open-wheel history. He’s won three IndyCar titles, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and his 35 career victories tie him for fifth on the all-time list with Bobby Unser. The only drivers ahead of Dixon are named Foyt, Andretti and Unser.
He’s won the Rolex twice, and as he begins his 14th season with Ganassi, he’s the longest tenured driver in the temperamental owner’s history.
Dixon is also the only active driver to finish in the top three in points every year since 2006. It’s that streak – he lost three consecutive championships to teammate Franchitti, who also won a pair of Indy 500s in that span – that has likely led to him often being overlooked.
Ganassi team manager Mike Hull, who has been with Dixon his entire IndyCar and sports car career, said the driver gets plenty of appreciation within his organization.
”He’s one of those people that have enormous ability, has terrific passion, wants to make himself better every day,” Hull said. ”He’s not complacent with where he is presently. I’ll guarantee you, he’ll come back here to race again, and he’ll want to improve himself over where he just finished today.
”He’s very direct with what he wants with his race car, and then he’s unselfish. He gives back. The younger drivers have a great mentor in Scott Dixon.”