Scott Dixon Talks Indianapolis 500 Pole Win and his Return to Honda in Toronto

May 26th, 2017
By Christian Ryan

New Zealand’s Scott Dixon will tear through the streets of Toronto in July, but in May he’s content to ride slowly through its traffic. The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series Champion was north of the border for a media tour in advance the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Dixon claimed pole position for the event, knocking defending champion Alexander Rossi and two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso off the top of the lineup. While outrunning these drivers was a feat in itself, the real focus was on the last driver up.

“For us, the hard part was with [Ed] Carpenter coming up last,” Dixon explained between stops on his media tour. “He’s won the pole a few times, and has definitely always got a strong car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So, you know, it was nice to knock them all off.”

The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 marks the third pole position in the world’s fastest race for the driver who previously won the race from the pole in 2008. While this certainly seems to bode well for Dixon, he maintains that Indianapolis is not a track where you can count on any clear advantages from qualifying.

“It doesn’t guarantee you anything,” he says. “As we’ve seen with history, you can pretty much win from anywhere as long as you’ve got a strong car. So I think it gives the team an added boost and it’s good for morale. It also shows that the car does have great speed, which is definitely a big help at the speedway… It’s very positive, and to win the pole is very tough in its own right. Unfortunately, it doesn’t guarantee much more after that.”

Also echoing past successes: Chip Ganassi Racing’s return to Honda, the manufacturer with whom Dixon won the Indy 500 and IndyCar championship in 2008. The Honda kit for Indianapolis has proven strong this season, with seven of the top 10 qualifiers using Honda engines including Dixon on the pole. While the Camping World sponsorship separates his car from the previous race winner, the familiarity of the Honda team and their previous successes with Chip Ganassi Racing has Dixon feeling right at home.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a fun environment,” Dixon says of Chip Ganassi’s return to Honda. “They've done an amazing job with the engine. What it all comes down to though is that you’re hopefully partnered with a manufacturer that are willing to win as much as us. I think we integrate really well with them.”

While Dixon enters the weekend second in points behind defending champion Simon Pagenaud, the prestige of the Indianapolis 500 transcends points battles and stands alone as its own feat. Whether fighting for a championship or coming over to IndyCar just for the event, the spirit of the Indy 500 lifts it above the typical race calendar as a spectacle all on its own. Russia’s Mikhail Aleshin, driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, has previously lead the event and qualifies well at Indianapolis. Having a taste of the front of the pack as a relative newcomer to oval racing, he emphasizes the importance of the race.

“The Indy 500 for me, and not only for me, but for each and every race driver that is competing there, it’s the fastest race in the world in open wheel racing,” explains Aleshin, whose Honda will line up 13th on Sunday. “It’s definitely the most spectacular show. Obviously I’m really excited to be back in the show and I just hope to win it.”

Having finished in the top five in every race thus far in 2017, Scott Dixon is off to a strong start and his points position reflects this.

“It’s probably an uncharacteristic start for us,” admits Dixon, who is known to peak in the second half of the race season. “We’ve always said if we can start strong, than the rest would be a lot easier. I just hope that we can keep a consistent record throughout the season. It definitely helps for the championship battle.”

Even with the strong start and chance to take the points lead, Dixon’s priorities remain clear:

“As of right now, the focus is just the 500,” he says. “You set those two goals: first to win the 500, second the championship.”

After a moment, the champion continues, “Hopefully we can accomplish both of those.”