Interview: Scott Dixon Talks Indianapolis 500

Every IndyCar driver dreams of winning the Indianapolis 500, dreams of kissing the bricks and dreams of chugging milk from the glass bottle.  Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon has done all of that.

In 2008, the New Zealander added racing’s biggest event to his list of accomplishments, winning by almost 1.7 seconds.  Dixon, 33, often remarks that the win is up there with getting married – but he’s hungry to do it again and it certainly showed over the weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A lot of preparation goes into the Indy 500 and nobody knows that better than Dixon.  So we got a chance to catch up with the three-time IndyCar champion the night before the race – after all the media stints, after all the qualifiers, after everything – and he shared with us his routine, what it’s like to be a part of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team and more.


CraveOnline: Can you tell us a little bit about your routine, like how you get ready for a race, especially one as big as the Indianapolis 500?

Scott Dixon: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is to keep it the same.  Yes, you’re nervous but this week is a lot more busy than a typical race, especially the night before.  So, the key is trying to relax as much as you can, which is easier said than done.  Generally, after today, because you start at like 7:30 in the morning and you’ll be done by pretty much 9:00 p.m. tonight, you’re pretty much ready for bed.  The annoying thing with the 500 is when you sleep there, they have the opening cannon – and then you go back to sleep.  From that point, whether it is cereal, pancakes or eggs, I have the typical stuff for breakfast.

Crave: Is breakfast on the lighter side, though?

Dixon: No, like I have to be full before a race.  Some, like Dario [Franchitti] for instance, will have breakfast but if we have a 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. race he wouldn’t eat anything in between.  I have to eat a lot of stuff before the race, otherwise I get a bit angry and that doesn’t do well on the track [laughs].  As long as I have a full belly [then I’m good].  Before the race will be typically pasta, chicken, maybe a sandwich, but nothing spicy, or crazy.  Hydration is the other big part of it.

Crave: Any superstations before the race, like something you’ll wear, or anything?

Dixon: It’s kind of funny because I think it’s more about process – like how you get ready.  Whether it’s getting into the car, not even how you dressed, but getting into the car, it’s always right foot before left.  I always get in from the left side of the car, you know, it is things like that which switch your mind into gear into of what’s about to happen and that’s what gets you going.  But superstitions, no.  Like, you know, you think about numbers a little bit.  You do dumb stuff maybe [laughs], like if you stay at a hotel, like alright, that’s going to make the difference.  But, generally some of the other guys have a lot of superstitions, like getting into the car and tapping the car three times, or having a banana before – but I’m pretty relaxed.

Crave: You’ve won the Indy 500 in the past; is there still the same nervousness and pressure going into it?

Dixon:  I think it’s a little different.  You go over to a team like Target Ganassi, you’re expected to win, so the pressure there is really high.  You think about other drivers, for example, say Michael Andretti: he’s got amazing stats, won just about everything in his career, but never won Indy.  So, you think when you go to a team like that, with a team like this, you think you’re not going to win it.  For me, when I won in 2008, it was almost a massive amount of weight lifted off your shoulders to say you’ve put your stamp on it and you’re on a short list of 64 or 65 people that have ever won this race in the world.  But then the spin to it is that the feeling is so good, and not because of the money or the media, or anything like that, but the feeling of winning this race and being one of the very few to do it and you see what the team goes through and what they accomplish – it drives you so much harder to try and win another.

Crave: Can you describe what it’s like when you’re kissing that brick, or drinking that milk?

Dixon: For me, it was all just a blur, man.  Like, the first time I kind of reset after that night, we had won the race and it was probably 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m.  I did media all the way until about midnight, because a bunch of New Zealand stuff kicked in too.  My wife, everybody had already left the rack and I went back to my motor home and nobody was there, man.  I got changed and went out to a club to party and it was on that drive, when I was driving there, that I realized we had just won the biggest race in the world.  For me, the biggest thing is trying to get back to the pits quick to see your wife, your kids, your family members, your team members – but when you’re actually drinking the milk and stuff it feels surreal.  I’ve grown up seeing those pictures for so long of other people doing it.

Crave: And then it was you.

Dixon: Yeah.  But yeah, the bricks man, I would lick the whole row of bricks if that’s what it took.  It wouldn’t bother me [laughs].

Crave: Do you have anything you listen to that gets you ready to go?

Dixon: No, I have done music a few times, but not generally.  I try to look for quiet time and for me, I look for an hour before the race to kind of chill out and sort of no interaction with anybody…

Crave: So, there’s no AC/DC playing in your ears or anything?

Dixon: No, no, I’m the opposite.  I’ll typically sleep right before the race, even if it’s an early morning race – I’ll still try to take a 20 or 30 minute nap.

Crave: Now, what’s your favorite thing about Indianapolis – out of all this stuff, this whole big weekend, what do you like the most?

Dixon: I don’t know, there are so many cool things.  You’re celebrating history.  You’re doing the same ceremonial things that people have been doing for 100 years.  But I live here, so the cool thing is to see the support of the city and the transformation the city goes through for the lead up to it and how excited everyone that lives here gets.  It’s things like qualifying, pole day, the parade, the drivers meeting – but for me there’s nothing like when you walk out Gasoline Alley.  What you’ve got to understand, for a month – or the two or three weeks you’re here – the track is not really full with people.  You might have a big qualifying day and there’s 100,000 people but to walk out and see, for miles, people in seats – like 350,000-plus people.  Even the atmosphere, like you’re hearing hundreds of thousands of people having a conversation, but the noise is just overwhelming.  So, for me, every time that happens.  And the National Anthem and how everybody gets behind it.  Those are key points; I mean you get goose bumps and stuff.

Crave: Will it ever get old?  Even if you’re 95 and still in the car and still doing it…

Dixon: Maybe – I don’t know!  You see people retire and I guess they get to a point where they’ve had enough of stressing their head out.

Crave: But you’re too busy wanting to lick that brick [laughs].

Dixon: Yeah, exactly man [laughs]!  You just want to win.  For me, I wake up, I think about racing, I want to go train so I’m better at racing – that’s my process when I wake up, so until that changes…  I think you can go through cycles too, whether it’s you do IndyCar to a certain time, then you can run sports cars and other formulas throughout.

Crave: Lastly, we’re here at the Target Chip Ganassi Racing facility, what’s it been like for you to be a part of their team – and how has it helped build your career?

Dixon: Wow, it’s hard for me to imagine not being with team Target.  You know, I started in IndyCar with another team, but it was only for a year and maybe four races in, and then I was teamed up with Chip [Ganassi] when I was only 22-years-old.  Now I’ve been here for 13 years and it feels like home, you know.  A lot of my best friends are with this team – it just feels like family.  We’ve had great years, we’ve had bad years.  I’ve had all but one of my career wins with this team.

Crave: So it’s just kind of a natural fit.

Dixon: It’s just a natural fit.  You know, the hardest part for me, if I had to leave, would be going somewhere else.  It just wouldn’t feel right.  I love Chip to bits and everyone on the team.  To me it’s a career team and to me, I’d love to live my career out here.  It’s hard for me to comment because I’ve never been anywhere else.  I think the biggest thing is the partnership and what Chip and everybody has created with Target and look we’re celebrating 25 years with Target – you don’t see that anywhere.  So yeah, I couldn’t be in a better situation.

Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photo (car) courtesy of Stephen Allen.

Photo (top, Scott Dixon) – Getty