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Interview With Honda Indy Toronto Race Winner – Scott Dixon

Q. Scott, tell us about your day today and just the weekend overall.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think Toronto’s always been a place I’ve wanted to win at. We’ve eluded it many times. I think my first race here might have been in 1999 in Indy Lights or 2000. We had a bit of a vacation from this place for four or five years when Champ Car and IndyCar weren’t running here.

I love this place. The town is a lot of fun. The fans are knowledgeable and love what we do. It’s great to see the excitement they had here all weekend.

The promoters, I think, did a great job to have so many different things going on for different people. It wasn’t just for racing. There were other forms of entertainment. It’s good to see people actually get it and put on a great show for everyone.

The weekend for us just went really smoothly, from practice when we didn’t show our speed, went to new tires late, then there was a caution. You know, Q1, I messed up. Started fifth in race one. Q2, we got the pole. Both cars have been good all weekend. The 10 car used its tires up a little quicker throughout the race, on reds, especially, which I think cost us a little bit on both days. We’ll get to the bottom of that and have both cars performing their best coming up to the next few races here.

Yeah, today’s standing start, I think everybody was nervous. I was waiting for another waved-off start. I think once we had the drivers’ meeting this morning, they said if it was waved off, they were going to keep doing it until they got it right.

Got a decent start. Saw Helio coming. I pushed the overtake, started to get going again.

The concrete patch in one was very slippery, so I hit that and slid off. I think I actually got into Helio a little bit. Hopefully didn’t wreck his car or anything. Everybody got away cleanly. I was very surprised about that. I was expecting to hear full-course caution after the standing start.

Apart from that, the day went smoothly. Car was good on tires. I had some in reserve. It was nice to save some fuel and look after the tires. Everybody time we did a pit stop, it seemed we would pick up three or four seconds.

Getting close to the finish of the race, you expect a lot of cautions. They started to come. We were in the right place at the right time. It worked out perfectly.

Q : Also it’s worth mentioning that nobody was able to accomplish this in Detroit, but Scott clinched the SONAX Perfect Finish Award here in Toronto and the $100,000 prize.

SCOTT DIXON: Nice of SONAX. Nice to give the boys a little bonus after our rough start to the year. I didn’t realize it sort of passed over. That’s fantastic. It’s a nice added bonus for us this weekend.

More importantly, we’re here for the points. It’s been a hell of a swing over a seven-day period. We were 92 points out, and now we’re like 27 out. It’s nice to put a little pressure on Helio, and hopefully we can keep that going.

Q.        Seven days ago you were winless and seventh in points. Do you think you’re firmly in the championship hunt now?

SCOTT DIXON: You know, I think so. I kind of alluded to it yesterday. Helio has had a pretty stress-free year as far as not being involved in accidents or having mechanicals. Ryan Hunter-Reay, every time I kept seeing him this weekend, he was in some kind of altercation. He lost a lot of points over the weekend.

Yeah, I think it’s still going to be a tough battle. I like the look of the tracks we have coming up. I think we are in the hunt. I think some tracks we’ll be at a slight disadvantage to the Chevys; some we might have an advantage. This weekend was a bit of an eye-opener for our team at least. Some of the other Hondas were not up maybe where they should have been.

Q.        You’ve become the winningest active driver in IndyCar. Did you ever think that was something achievable when you first started this?

SCOTT DIXON: Probably not. I started this when? I was 20 or 21. I was probably trying to think of where to go that night instead of what my future was holding.

No, I tried to just concentrate on it on a day-by-day basis, week-by-week. I’m very fortunate to have 31 of those wins with this team, 12 years with this team. I think me and Helio are probably the longest active drivers with one team, which I think says a lot for the wins we’ve had and what we’ve achieved together.

I would have wished some of those were a couple more 500s and a few more championships. But that’s the way it’s gone. We’ll keep digging, trying to improve on that. It’s cool to be on that list and moving up it.

Q.        Back to the points. In a way it’s almost like you go to the casino and you hit jackpot. Now there’s another double-header in the next to the last race of the season. How will Houston be? That could be a major factor in deciding who wins.

SCOTT DIXON: I’ve never raced at that circuit. I think a few guys have. I’m not even sure the history of that place. I raced in CART, but that Enron Field or something. That was donkey’s years ago.

I hope I have a good performance. I hope it’s similar to Toronto, because the car is good here.

Big picture, it’s the same for everybody. You have to make the maximum you can out of each day, each weekend.

Yes, it is tough when you maybe have missed a performance on a double-header weekend. Instead of having one bad weekend, you’re really having two.

So, yes, that is and can be frustrating. I think we’ve seen that this weekend in the points for some of the guys. They’ve taken a big hit.

All I can hope is that Houston goes well for us. Both double-headers have been pretty smooth for us so far. Who knows.

Q.        On TV before the race started, for obvious reasons, Paul Tracy hoped that you didn’t win. Can you understand where he was coming from? More importantly, when you look at the names ahead of you on that list, there’s three Unsers, two Andrettis and one famous Foyt. Those are legendary names. I don’t care if it’s NASCAR, Formula One, whatever. How does it feel to have your name on the cusp of those guys?

SCOTT DIXON: You know, it does feel amazing. We never really talked about it much. I think last year we touched on it a little bit after the Mid-Ohio win. Moving closer to some of these guys, you know, going back to the other question, years ago I didn’t think I’d ever be in this position. I was a happy kid from New Zealand racing cars. Then it worked into one day I was actually getting paid to race cars. It was a win-win situation.

I know a few of the guys. P.T., I’ve known for a few years now. Maybe not as close as my teammate Dario. He’s a character. Obviously a guy that I idolized with his aggression and the way that he really wheeled a car around. He was definitely exciting to watch.

I’m sure he didn’t want me to win today. But I’ll probably see him later tonight.

Yeah, no, for me I think stats are for maybe when you retire, you kind of look back on it. No disrespect to anybody or anything about it. I want to race. I hope we can win more races together. But to be on that list, yeah, it’s amazing to be among those names. What I hope for is we can win a few more.

Q.        Can you comment on the health of this race? Toronto has had to recover since taking the year off. 2009, 2010 the grandstands were pretty thin. This year it looked pretty good.

SCOTT DIXON: Double-headers are kind of hard to read because it spreads it over two days. I think some people only come for one day. I don’t know statistically. But even on the back straight in the trees, there was a ton of people sitting on the grass.

I hadn’t seen that for a long time. I really think that the crowds this weekend, whether it was due to the weather being so nice, most of the stands were packed. There were people everywhere.

I think the craziest thing in this town is how many high-rises are going up. How do they sell these things? Must be a lot of people living here.

Q.        Does that change your opinion on double-headers? Attendance-wise, do you still think they’re a good thing?

SCOTT DIXON: I don’t know. I think it’s something the promoters would have to look at. Being the first year of it for us in the current state, Detroit and Toronto, I’m sure they’ll figure it out.

I think TV numbers, who knows. I think that was kind of more of the push, some people might catch it Saturday, but they’d definitely tune in on Sunday. That seems to be more of a pull at the moment. How that is working out, I have no idea.

The double-headers, I think we’ve picked two of the toughest places to do them physically. It’s very easy to slip off and crash at these places. To try to maintain the car throughout the weekend, the crews, how hard these tracks are on these cars, it’s definitely the toughest places that we come to.

I like the double-headers. Obviously, they’ve been working for us, so we probably want to keep them around. I could take them or leave them, as well.

Q.        I don’t know if you’ll answer this or not. But we know up until last weekend, Target Chip Ganassi had struggled for about 18 months not having the results that you’re used to as a team. We know that you’re not the factor. We also know that you received a new generation of Honda engine recently and you tested at Sebring and did a fair amount of work there, presumably developed the car there. Is there the one or the other of those you attribute the success you’ve seen over the last couple of weeks?

SCOTT DIXON: I think Pocono was maybe a circuit, going into the race, I thought we had a good car. The car has been good on the ovals for me. I know the 10 car has struggled in some areas, but we’ve been pretty strong.

I think Iowa, we had a shot at winning, as well, until we had wiring go out, started missing and losing boost.

I think it’s been a combination of things. Everybody has had a lot of sit-down time with Chip, which is always interesting, gets you a little refocused. People were kind of lacking confidence.

I think Pocono was one of those weekends where, yes, some of the cars had new-generation engines, not all of them, and they had worked on areas that did help us win that race. I think they do help us at circuits like this, as well.

Honda are doing the best they can. They’re a great group of people. I’ve worked for them for many years, with them for many years, and they weren’t in competition. I think they’re coming back. They’re digging deep.

The toughest thing I think in the series is you get five engines for the season. You take kind of two of those updates around Indy time. So you’re stuck with a spec for so long. If there is a bit of separation, there’s really no way to catch up unless you start taking engine penalties. We’ve had our fair share of those this year.

It’s been a little bit of Honda, a little bit of the team. I think everybody sort of refocusing. Pocono was a big shot in the arm for confidence and getting things together. It’s not one thing; it’s been a combination of a lot.

Q.        The next race coming up, how confident are you you can make it four in a row considering last year?

SCOTT DIXON: It would be nice. Mid-Ohio has been a good place for us. We’ve won there, I don’t know, four times. I’m hoping to gain some good points there.

But typically Penske have been strong there, as well. We’ll go there and do our best. I think we have a pre-test there the Wednesday before the race weekend. We’ll see how that shapes up.

But, yeah, I’m confident in the fact that we’ve had cars that have worked there in the past. Areas where we’ve developed, Barber, the car was the best. We had to fight our way. Didn’t do my job as well as I should have in qualifying and just came up short.

But, yeah, I think we’re all confident going to Mid-Ohio, and hopefully that plays true.

Q.        Is this season starting to remind you of 2007?

SCOTT DIXON: Just needed a cup of fuel. That would have been different.

We don’t intentionally start the season bad, though we typically seem to somehow. I hope that it goes like ’07, but turns out like ’08. It’s so competitive, with how many different race winners we’ve had this year. The points are jumbled up. People have made strides at different points in the year.

I suspect there’s going to be four, five, six people that are going to be fighting for it at the end of the year. Hopefully we’re one of them. Hopefully we dig deep enough, and maybe it goes our way.

Q.        There were times during this race where you were 13, 15 seconds ahead of Helio Castroneves. Was there any point during the race where you wanted to slow down a little bit anticipating a restart?

SCOTT DIXON: No. The gap kind of maintained. I tried to keep it about seven, eight seconds. I started saving fuel on the first stint trying to save the reds a little bit. We were shooting for a five-second gap. It kind of picked up a little bit once their tires started to go.

I think where we made good strides was the pits and in and out laps. We seemed to jump three or four seconds in one swoop. Until I see the data…

We tried to keep it at a pace, they came on the radio, Did the same time, I would go in trying to burn the car up.

They were very consistent. I don’t think they had the speed we had in reserve. I think they would match up and they could go quicker again.

Yeah, funky things can happen if you try to slow down too much. You miss your points; you’ll end up in the fence. You try to maintain what the car is doing.

Q.        I asked Helio the same question. What is your position on lap cars lining up with the leaders on restarts?

SCOTT DIXON: Today was great (laughter).

I don’t know. I’ve been in situations, I’m trying to think recently, Milwaukee or somewhere, where we had that situation.

I think it’s more track-dependent. Indy, they say 10 laps to go, people need to get out of the way. That’s a lot different to Iowa. It’s a third of the size. The 10 laps go by very quickly.

I think for the drivers that are in those situations, they probably want to get out of the way. They probably want to go through pit lane on a restart with 15 or 20 to go. But they’re probably also fighting for somebody that’s on the same lap right around that same position.

It’s kind of hard to know what to do. Maybe they think they’re strong enough to get a lap back. It does get confusing for fans and also race teams. When you have to line up for double-file restarts, there’s people in the mix. You’re third, you could be restarting ninth.

I don’t know. I know there’s been a lot of discussion in drivers’ meetings about it. It’s one of those things I think some weekends it works for you, some it doesn’t.

Courtesy-wise, if I was in that situation, several laps down, when you’re racing from a lap down, you can get your position back off strategy, that’s different. But, yeah, I think if you’re more than one lap down, you should probably get out of the way.

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Posted by on July 15, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,Indy Car. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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