Scott Dixon finished third on Sunday to hold off race-winner Josef Newgarden by 16 points for the NTT IndyCar Series championship.
Dixon's title was his sixth in Indy cars, one short of A.J. Foyt's all-time record.
Dixon was the first driver 40 years old or older to win the IndyCar championship since Nigel Mansell in 1993.
Does Scott Dixon belong in the same discussion for "best ever" as guys like Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt?
Yes, says Mario.
Sunday afternoon, in a strange, crash-filled race on a super-slick street course at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, Scott Ronald Dixon won his sixth—his sixth!—IndyCar title, pulling him two past Mario Andretti and to within one of A.J. Foyt. And at 40, Dixon has time to win a seventh.
Dixon, by finishing third, did what he had to do to take the championship back from Josef Newgarden, who, by winning the race, did all he could do to catch Dixon, but he came up a bit short. Dixon, for the first time, lead for this entire oddball, COVID-infected season, and his lead diminished as the race went on, but was good enough by a scant 16 points.
So Dixon moved closer to A.J. Foyt in championships; he has won 50 races, third overall to Mario Andretti (52) and Foyt (67). He has proven his versatility by winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona three times, including this year, and he won the Indianapolis 500, but “versatility” has a different meaning than it did in Foyt and Andretti’s era—where versatility meant winning F1 races, Daytona 500s, USAC sprint car races and, in Andretti’s case, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
So should we really start to think about Scott Dixon the way we think about A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti?
“Absolutely,” Andretti told Autoweek on Sunday.
“You look at his record of championships and wins, and we are absolutely in good company. I love the guy, I love what he stands for. He’s definitely one of the best ever.”
One major difference between then and now, Andretti said, is reliability.
"Today, it’s rare for a car to go out because of a mechanical problem. Back then, reliability was such an issue." Andretti said. "Probably half my races were DNFs. My mojo is to just go for it, and you had to be patient with your car. I could never train myself to do that,”
In other words, Andretti broke a lot of machinery.
Not a problem for Dixon and his very well-prepared Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. In fact, out of 335 races, he has finished in the top 10 an incredible 243 times. On Sunday, he became the first IndyCar champion age 40 or older since Nigel Mansell in 1993.
So why isn’t Dixon more popular? Why isn't he a household name?
It’s the Jimmie Johnson syndrome. Both are nice young men who, with the exception of Johnson falling off while surfing on a golf cart and breaking a wrist in 2006, have done little memorable besides win races. They don’t have a real persona, which is mandatory in racing to be remembered, and always has been.
They don’t wear Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hats like Richard Petty, or dark STP sunglasses even when he’s inside. They don’t have Dale Earnhardt’s gunfighter blue eyes or all-powerful mustache or man-in-black guise. They don’t have a nickname like Fireball, and then tragically perish as the result of one. They don’t even have the bow tie that made Tucker Carlson “the guy who wears the bow tie,” until he became famous enough to wear regular neckties.
Are we talking about gimmicks? No. Affectations? Not really. Distinctive neckwear? Yeah, start with that. Then win six or seven championships, and win 50 IndyCar or 83 NASCAR races, and you’ll be remembered, even by people who aren’t race fans.
Assuming that’s important to you. To Scott Dixon, a conventional family man who happens to be able to drive really fast, it isn’t. Pay attention to Dixon. When he’s on the track, we’re watching one of the best race car drivers in history.
One final observation: I was the only journalist permitted to infiltrate Ford while they were developing the Ford GT race car, which, as you may recall, essentially preceded the development of the Ford GT street car. I spent hours watching test laps of early GT mules, driven by some of the best sports car drivers in the world. But when he was available, Chip Ganassi, who was overseeing development of the car for Ford, would fly in Dixon, and put him in the car.
The way the designers and engineers and other drivers hung on every word from Dixon – not even a sports car driver by trade—about handling or acceleration or braking suggested such a level of respect from his peers that it was remarkable to watch—all them awaiting the verdict from “Dixie.” I don’t know how important that is to Scott Dixon, but I’ll tell you, he sure has their esteem.
As for Dixon, he wrapped up his latest championship and his own view of his place in history after the race.
“Well, six is good. Seven is better." Dixon said. "That’s going to be the goal. But it’s tough."
What do you think? Where does Scott Dixon rank among the all-time greats. Let us know your take in the comments section below.