Dixon takes rightful place alongside Indy car legends

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When Scott Dixon won the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2, it tied him with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser for fourth place on Indy car’s all-time wins list with 39 checkered flags.

Dixon also set an Indy car record by earning at least one win for the 12th consecutive season.

Coupled with his come-from-behind victory to capture the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship last August in Sonoma, Calif., the Phoenix win helped move Dixon into a very exclusive club among the best the sport has ever seen.

April 13 at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Dixon rightfully joined the sport’s greatest drivers for an evening of “IndyCar Legends.” There, he shared the stage with Unser, Michael Andretti (third all-time with 42 wins) and his father, Mario Andretti (second all-time, 52 wins), for a spirited and memorable question-and-answer session streamed live on IndyCar.com.

For a replay of the event, click here.

A.J. Foyt, the winningest driver in Indy car annals with 67 victories, was unable to attend due to illness, but was shown in an interview recorded earlier this week.

“This is truly a special group,” said Leigh Diffey, emcee and NBCSN lead announcer for Verizon IndyCar Series telecasts.

Never one to brag of his success, Dixon seemed a bit embarrassed to share the stage with the best the sport has ever known.

“I feel very privileged and lucky to race cars, but to be with this group is so much fun,” Dixon said. “My stories are a little different than theirs and, yeah, it’s a bit daunting, but it’s very special and something I embrace.”

If there were any lingering doubt, it was this night that Dixon, a four-time series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, took his rightful spot with the other Indy car legends.

And at the relatively young age of 35, Dixon has the opportunity to extend his legacy, legend and potentially move up further on the all-time wins list.

Both Mario Andretti and Foyt paid high praise to Dixon.

“These dudes (like Dixon) are really quite young yet,” said Mario, a four-time Indy car season champion and winner of the 1969 Indianapolis 500. “I think many more records will fall.

“That’s a testimony of the quality of the series we have. And for the 100th (running of the Indianapolis 500 next month), we’re probably going to have the best talent there that we’ve ever seen.”

Foyt, a seven-time champion and the first driver to win four Indy 500s, said of Dixon, “I respect him and have been watching him since he came over to race for Chip Ganassi. He’s a great race driver and very smart. He kind of stands out over the other ones.”

Dixon returned the compliment to Foyt.

“It was really cool when we won in Phoenix and to be presented the A.J. Foyt Trophy with A.J. right there,” Dixon said.

Mario Andretti reaped additional praise on Dixon when asked how the New Zealand native would have fared racing in his era along with Foyt and Unser.

“The same, no question about it,” Mario said of Dixon. “I always said champions of yesterday would be champions of today and vice-versa. I think there’s something very special about individuals that can achieve that level. The quality is the same.”

Dixon smiled when asked if he would have enjoyed racing against the former champs flanking him on the dais.

“Absolutely, I don’t know about A.J., though. I’d probably be running away from A.J.,” Dixon said with a laugh. “There’s so many classic and cool cars you’d like to be involved with. And when you beat the competition, there’s no better feeling in the world.”

Dixon has his sights set on more wins in his career, but none would be more special than to capture the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29.

“I hope that’s the case,” Dixon said, adding with a laugh, “You still have to qualify, right?

“For the 33 of us that do (make the historic race), we’re very fortunate to be in the right era and the right timing and the significance of the event. It’s going to be very special. It’s just an honor and to be part of the select few to be there on that day, and to be part of winning the 100th, it adds bragging rights, sure.”

Other past Indy car greats and Indianapolis 500 champions in attendance at the VIP event included Bobby Rahal, Dario Franchitti, Parnelli Jones, Al Unser Jr., Danny Sullivan, Tony Kanaan and Dixon’s team owner, Chip Ganassi.

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