P life in the fast lane
before you start practice again, so the loss of sleep was probably the biggest downside to it.’’
Worse was to come. Dixon’s car was clipped by Jay Howard on the 53rd lap of the main race, sending the Kiwi flying into the trackside hoardings. Incredibly, the Kiwi walked away with just a fractured ankle.
‘‘Any of those accidents, man, everything slows down,’’ Dixon says. ‘‘It feels like it takes a good five minutes to get through it. I was super-lucky there, too. The way the car hit what it hit, when it hit, and the way it had three moments to distort the power of it.’’
Two days after the crash, Dixon was back in Chip Ganassi’s Indianapolis workshop to see if he could use his injured ankle to apply pressure on his car’s brakes.
Ask people about Dixon away from the racetrack and the image of a low-key, family-orientated bloke is quickly assembled.
After marrying former British Commonwealth Games runner Emma Davies in 2008, the Brisbane-born south Aucklander has settled down to life in Indianapolis’ trendier northern suburbs where the couple raise GETTY IMAGES/PHOTOSPORT their daughters Poppy, 8, and Tilly, 6.
‘‘He could have easily bought a big mansion in Miami, bought a private jet and lived the good life – but he has lived in Indianapolis since day one,’’ Cunningham, a long-time friend, says.
‘‘Until a few years ago, he lived in a very modest home. He just goes about his business of motor racing.’’
While Indycar crews are back to work first thing on Monday after a race weekend, drivers have more flexible hours. For Dixon, that means doing the usual dad stuff.
‘‘Most Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I take my kids to school and pick them,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s swimming on Mondays [and] ballet on Tuesdays. Horse-riding on Wednesdays. I’m very fortunate on that side of things.’’
Dixon’s wife travels to ‘‘around 75 per cent’’ of the races, while their kids, who attend an international school in Indianapolis, attend around half. Dixon, who trains for triathlons in his free time, says his daughters understand parts of their dad’s job – but mostly just enjoy the race weekend environment.
‘‘Poppy is more aware of it – Tilly is more low-key, anyway,’’ he says. ‘‘But they live in Indianapolis, which is very rich in racing – and all their friends know about it.
‘‘I think the whole Indycar series is very family-orientated. If you go to the motorhome lot most weekends, all the kids are running around and they get to hang with their friends. They enjoy that.
‘‘Do they grasp all of it? Probably not yet. Poppy started to ask about having a go on a go-kart, which is pretty funny. Tilly not at all – she’s into horses.’’
The Dixons have become central in the drivers’ support network on tour.
Following the in-race death of close friend Dan Wheldon in 2011, the family moved to St Petersburg, Florida, for a brief stint to stay with the English driver’s grieving family.
Cunningham says Dixon – who has had a documentary crew following him around for the majority of this season – is universally liked by his fellow drivers, while his personality has resonated amongst the wider Indianapolis community.
‘‘He remembers strangers’ names really well,’’ Cunningham says. ‘‘He’ll see someone out in a social setting, and always remembers their name. He makes people feel special.’’
Given Dixon’s obvious love of a relatively normal family life – and his Indycar longevity – the retirement question is always one levelled at the Kiwi.
Strip away the glamour and motorsport is a tough gig. The travel is constant, the pressure huge – and the risks immense.
‘‘When there is a tragedy or even an accident like Indianapolis, it is a common question,’’ Dixon says. ‘‘I’ve always known motor racing is dangerous – that’s part of it – but I couldn’t imagine giving up on terms like that.
‘‘I’ve just turned 37. Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan are both 42 this year. It’s easy to kinda put a round number on it. Most people look at 40 to 42 to be the number, but, for me, it’ll be if I feel like I’m not competitive any more. That’ll be the turn for me to look at a different kind of series.
‘‘But I feel like I amstill very competitive. This season has been very strong, considering the bad patch we had. But, yeah, I don’t know. It’s one of those things that when the time comes, it comes.’’
The recent mail around American motorsport circles is that Palmerston North’s Brendon Hartley is likely to replace Brazilian Tony Kanaan at Chip Ganassi Racing next year.
With the team understood to be cutting Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball to become a two-car unit again, Hartley, a European speedcar pro and ex-F1 test driver, and Dixon could form an all-Kiwi lineup for Chip Ganassi.
While retirement is unlikely on the horizon for the Old Dog just yet, Hartley’s presence alongside Dixon does hold a nice narrative blend for Kiwi motorsport fans.
Over time, torches always get passed. In terms of single-seat success, Dixon’s achievements in the US have placed him firmly in the lineage of our finest motorsport generation – F1 drivers Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon and Denny Hulme of the 1960s and 1970s.
Dixon met Amon as a teenager, has since met McLaren’s daughter – and features in Roger Donaldson’s recent documentary McLaren.
‘‘For a lot of us younger guys, from their generation at least to the next generation with [Mitch] Evans and Brendon, I take a lot of pride in the history we have from such a small country,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s fun to hear the stories – that generation was so much different. It would have been a really fun generation to be a part of, but also the safety aspect of it was very tough.
‘‘We’re lucky to be in this generation but, I think, to be in that generation in that time of changing technology and excitement of different cars, it would have been really cool.’’
The track has had plenty of twists and curves since that day in Puke, and even his first CART – now Indycar – outing in 2001, but ask Dixon about how much of that kid in the Sentra at Puke is still inside and you’ll get a big grin.
‘‘You know, I heard a funny story the other day from a Kiwi that helped me along the way,’’ Dixon says.
‘‘He was talking about another driver, and he was like ‘oh man, I just don’t think he has enough mongrel in him, like you’.
‘‘I laughed, because I don’t see myself that way. It was quite a funny description of the struggles we had, but I think that helps in so many ways throughout your career when you come from not much.
‘‘You’ve done it that way, and the pay-off is a lot better as far as the people around you and coming from a small town and things like that. I think we all grow in many different ways. I was very quiet back then and I think that I’ve come out of my shell a little bit.
‘‘But I think as far as the basics go – as far as me the driver goes – I’m very similar.’’
This season has been very strong, considering the bad patch we had.’ SCOTT DIXON