Q. : Scott, what a race tonight. Walk us through tonight’s race.
SCOTT DIXON: It was pretty crazy having to start back in the pack a little bit. I moved up I think on the initial lap, then kind of had a few issues with the balance of the car, being back in the pack. We seemed to lose the balance a bit with understeer.
I think for us it was more about maintaining. I could see still the leader. I was checking in with the team to see how fast the lead was getting away. The biggest thing in that position is to stay on the lead lap. The pack was still pretty compressed.
Sort of just maintained. We worked on the car a little bit. We tried changing some tire pressures, working with the bars, the weight jacker. Didn’t find the balance till sort of about lap 80, as late as 100. Once we got the balance set, the car was good, we were able to move up and really contend.
I think we were one of the better cars out there. Will Power did a great job tonight. He was extremely fast, was just kind of hooked up. He could run on the bottom, the top, pick where he needed to go, head straight out speed. Maybe in the right scenario, we could have done it.
The crunch came towards the end. I wasn’t aware, apparently we had an overheating issue for quite some time with the engine. Last year we had a similar issue here. We had an overheating alarm come on. I had it on for the last 50 or 60 laps. When you have an alarm on, you can’t see anything on your dash. You can’t control the weight jacker or anything like that. This year I made sure they took it off. But I didn’t know there was a problem. I guess that was kind of a good thing.
When I knew there was an issue was when they were pitting me out of sequence. Going into three, they started yelling, Pit, pit, pit. I knew we had a problem. Didn’t know the extent of it.
But to catch that yellow, to understand under that yellow that Helio had an issue as well and lost a lap was the perfect scenario.
Just sort of maintaining the car for the rest of the night. They tried to pull as much as they could out of the radiator and some off the side pod to help cool it. The engine ran okay towards the end. Still getting pretty hot, but it was going to be pretty tough to lose it at that point with sort of 15 laps to go.
Q: Given the highs and lows of the season, how gratifying is in championship?
SCOTT DIXON: When you’ve won a couple, they’re all very different. The first one, I think I was young, just didn’t really understand what I had won. Was the first year in the series with the team. My perspective when I was 22 or 23 of what I actually did to what I understand now is totally different. I think the competitiveness of the series has gone through the roof since the merger in ’08.
’08 was a dream year. Got married, won the Indy 500 and the championship. Pretty hard to beat that.
This year I think has been far different just in the fact mid-season we didn’t think we had a shot at the championship. I remember having a conversation with Helio after Iowa. I was like, Man, you need to watch out. He kind of pissed me off a little bit in Iowa. I’m not in the championship, don’t do that again, because otherwise I can maybe hinder your championship.
It’s funny how it turned out to be us fighting it out in the last few races.
I feel for Helio. He ran a strong year. He’s a hell of a competitor. He’s a high-energy person.
I’ve been in that situation before, and it sucks. I want to thank him for having a great race tonight and keeping it clean, pushing as hard as he could.
But, yeah, I think tonight’s race sums up how our year was. It was very up and down. In the end we came out on top, so that’s the important part.
Q. When Chip was in here, he thought the five-year thing was a validation of your tenacity of your competitiveness. It’s not like your championships came all at once.
SCOTT DIXON: Hope he doesn’t lay me off for four years (laughter).
We’ve come close many times. I think since ’06 we’ve had a great shot at winning this championship and we’ve come up short a few times. Lucky enough for our team that Dario took three of those. Some I was in contention, one or two I wasn’t.
It’s a special team. They dig deep. Chip is a hell of a guy, hell of a competitor. You don’t see that all the time in team owners. It can get quite political, things like that.
I know in the early years I was lucky with contracts. I think I breezed through some situations where I was still hired. Then we fought through and took it when we needed to.
The five-year thing, I think it’s just a coincidence. I think some of those instances and years we were fighting for the championship could have turned out different, but they didn’t.
It’s nice to know we’ve been in the hunt plenty of times.
Q. Do you think you get enough credit for your driving skill?
SCOTT DIXON: I’ve always been a guy that — recently I’ve spoken out more than I used to. It hasn’t been on stats or results.
I don’t know. I think I’m kind of one of those people that once it’s said and done, I’m done with racing, I can look back and say, Hey, we achieved this, I achieved this, that’s the time for that.
For me right now, I love racing. I want to race. Whether it’s IndyCar stuff, sports car stuff that the team does, I love being at a track. I love waking up thinking about it, train for it, do all that kind of stuff.
No, I’m not really a person that does that, so…
Q. It’s kind of incumbent on a champion to help lead the sport, be out there. Will you do that? Will you push people to put you in spotlights?
SCOTT DIXON: Absolutely. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy doing that stuff. I think I have evolved as a person in a lot of ways from the 2003 championship. I do understand it’s very important for the sport, it’s very important for this sport especially that’s striving and pushing to which back, to be out there and be in the spotlight.
I think IndyCar is hopefully on the right track for making that happen as well.
But, yeah, I do feel I’m up for that task. Is that my strong point? Maybe not. Is that something that Helio or maybe some other driver may be a little bit better at? Maybe. First and foremost for me it’s about being a competitor, being the best I can as a driver, going out there and wanting to win. Then it’s very important to make sure that IndyCar gets the recognition that it deserves, that it is one of the toughest sports in motor racing, it is at the elite level, and the competition is extremely tough.
I’m excited for all that.
Q. Did the heat affect the aero balance?
SCOTT DIXON: Not so much. I think that’s part of a central part of the car. It does hurt the speed. The more closed off you can be, generally the faster you will go, less drag. Even on this car, it doesn’t seem to be that sensitive to that.
At that point all you’re wanting to do is make sure you get through the race. The balance shift, you generally have enough stuff on the car to try to help that stuff.
Q. Any close calls?
SCOTT DIXON: There was a few. I got hit pretty good by the 5 car before he eventually hit the wall. I got hit by Bourdais on the front straight there. I kind of moved down a little bit. It was probably a little bit of my fault. We kind of misjudged our own space.
Helio actually shot up in front of me a couple times out of two which nearly turned into a hard point there. And Will was racing pretty hard most of the night.
Nothing too crazy. I think the biggest hit we took was probably from the 5 car.
Q. Take us through what was the toughest part of this race.
SCOTT DIXON: I don’t know. When you go through a race with so many hard points, whether it’s trying to get to the lead, trying to maintain. The style of the race was probably the toughest part for us in our situation just because the car wasn’t that good. We had to work on it to make it better throughout the night. That was probably the hard part.
I think emotionally the toughest is figuring out that you have a bit of a problem with the car, an overheating issue, nothing you’re going to fix straightaway, not knowing what situation your main competitor is in. There were many highs, lows, tough parts throughout the night.
We had a close call in turn two with a car that had spun. I myself almost spun at the same time as well. It was full of ups and downs.
Q. What adjustments were they making to your car through the race?
SCOTT DIXON: To start with we really just worked on tire pressures. I was moving weight around on the car with the weight jacker, the front and rear roll bars. What set the car off was once we set the front wing, the car responded to that, we started moving towards the front.
Q. You’re talking about the differences in your different championships. One thing different about this one is this is your first as a father. Does that change your perception of it in any way?
SCOTT DIXON: We were talking about bringing the girls out here. The West Coast, I don’t know if anyone has traveled with a two-year-old and a four-year-old, but it’s pretty difficult. Also being a West Coast race, we don’t bring our motorhome out here. It becomes a bit of an issue to bring the girls out here.
I’m sad they’re not here. It was really cool to have them in Toronto this time in Victory Circle.
They witnessed one or two before that, but not both of them. At four, they probably start to remember about it. Actually, I think she was more impressed with the Target dog.
I really do miss not seeing them tonight. Maybe they’ll come out tomorrow. We still haven’t worked that out yet, the banquet. But it’s special to have them is one thing, extremely special, changed Emma and my life. That, too, has its highs and lows. But you always know that it’s exciting to see them.
I think the biggest thing for me is when you have a really shitty weekend, you come back, you see them. That’s a big thing. It only gets hard when she says, Did you bring a trophy home? Always on about stickers.
Yeah, no, I wish they were here, I really do.
Q. Earlier this week in Indianapolis you had this calm about you. Was there ever any point after Houston where you felt this might not happen?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, those scenarios run through your head. You try and forget about them. You try and think about, This should be my year. You try and think positive about why it should be.
Having the big gain we saw in Houston, you also understand you could be in that situation come Fontana as well. That’s why it’s so tough, these championships, because you have the highs and lows through the season. When it comes down to the last race, you know you have a real shot at winning it, do you have the mechanical problem, a silly spin you could have avoided, do you run something over on the pit stop, do something stupid.
The biggest thing for me, and Chip says it in every race meeting, is this race pays the same amount of points as the first race of the season. You can’t single out places. You can’t say, That’s why I lost a championship. You got to get it together for all of them.
We didn’t do a good job of consistency through this year, but we made a strong effort to come back and fight strong towards the end. Any human being, you still have some doubt and figure some crazy way in your head you still will lose it.
Q. With all your success in IndyCar, do you think in the future it’s possible to have an IndyCar race in New Zealand? Last week the famous motorsport magazine L’Équipe from France said you overtook your countrymen. What does that mean for you?
SCOTT DIXON: First of all, yes, I think they should have a race in New Zealand. I’m sure everyone in here would like to go to New Zealand. I’d get a free trip home to see my family. That would be even better.
The Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren thing, to me, they’re still real legends. We all know what Bruce has done and the same with Denny. For me it was an era that I wasn’t around. But motor racing, the heritage is very strong in New Zealand. People like that, Kiwis, such a small place.
Four million people, now 30 million sheep. My idea of 15 million sheep has multiplied.
It’s much harder to achieve than what they did. McLaren, the team has gone through some major changes throughout the years, but the founder was still Bruce. For someone like him to turn up and make a team, be able to go out there, build his own cars, win Grand Prix, those days are long gone. The series are totally different from what those guys witnessed. I like to say they were the real men of the sport back then. Everybody admires what they’ve achieved and done.
I guess my answer to that is I’d find that hard to believe.