The Time a Family of Ducks Almost Got Scott Dixon Killed

scott dixon
A Family of Ducks Almost Got Scott Dixon KilledIllustration by Kasiq
scott dixon
Illustration by Kasiq

In August, Scott Dixon surpassed Mario Andretti for the most victories (53) in American open-wheel competition, putting him second behind A.J. Foyt’s 67 wins. Dixon has won six IndyCar drivers’ titles, ranking second behind—you guessed it—Foyt, who earned seven. Which means, if Dixon stays in the game, the New Zealander could become the GOAT.

This story originally appeared in Volume 13 of Road & Track.

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Road & Track: You were 13 when you first raced. You had to take a special test because you weren’t old enough to get a driver’s license, right?

Scott Dixon: Yeah, but I nearly failed the signing-­off portion. I was in a Suzuki Swift, a little two-door car. I remember going through Turn 1, which was the fastest turn on the track, a fourth-gear corner. A family of ducks started walking across the track. I swerved to avoid them and spun and barely missed the wall. The steward in the passenger seat, who was supposed to sign me off so I could race, said to me, “Please, never avoid ducks on the track. Just run them over. Because you nearly got us killed.”

R&T: You won your series championship that year, competing against a lot of drivers who were twice your age. How did you get so good so fast?

SD: It felt natural from the get-go. We didn’t have any money. It’s funny how much the sport has changed. At that point for me, just starting, it was all about feel—no data, no video. Whereas the generation going through now, even in go-karts, they have video, they have data, they learn a totally different way. For me, it was a much more analog way of learning.

R&T: Now at 42, you’ve clocked 53 IndyCar wins (as of press time). The competition these days is insane. How would you characterize the grid this season?

SD: It’s pretty stacked. The series has changed. In my early years, you could tune the car to something that felt natural to you. That caused separation among the teams, as some were better at dialing the car in. Now everybody has the same car, and the field is tight. There are no bad teams, no bad drivers. It’s probably the most competitive field that I have ever been part of, from the front of the grid to the back.

R&T: What’s your workout routine?

SD: It’s six days a week. Three of those days are two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. The rest of the days it’s just two hours in the morning. I’ve been with PitFit [a cross-­training outfit for drivers] in Indianapolis since about 1999. There’s also so much that goes into staying race fit. When I started in IndyCar, we tested nearly 60 days a year. Now we test four. So being race fit is difficult. There’s a lot of reaction exercises, a lot of simulator, a lot of data. That’s the biggest thing, trying to consume all the data.

R&T: Your pre-race routine: early to bed? Or are you out drinking martinis?

SD: Not much alcohol. I might have a beer after a race on a Sunday.

R&T: How do you feel about the upcoming changes to the car?

SD: In theory, we will get more power. Nobody has tested the hybrid portion on track. I think it’s going from 2.2 to 2.4 liters, which is maybe 100 horsepower, and we’ll get maybe 75 from the hybrid side. I think it’s important to be relevant in the industry right now. But the car has gotten very heavy. It’s well over 2000 pounds now.

R&T: If you stick around, there’s a chance you could top A.J. Foyt as the winningest driver ever in American open-wheel racing. Do you still want to compete?

SD: That is my intention. I just love driving. The race weekends are long, and you only drive for about two hours. It’s damn hard. You’re in a sport where you lose a lot more than you win. But driving is the most fun I have on the weekend. It’s all I’ve ever known.

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