INDIANAPOLIS -- The guys in Gasoline Alley saved Scott Dixon’s Sunday.
When fluid leaks were discovered in the Chevrolet engine of his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car at the end of practice before second-day Indy 500 qualifying, Dixon’s crew was on the clock with technical inspection to swap it out.
With the help of crew members from all four Chip Ganassi Racing Teams cars, they took 64 minutes on a job that usually requires between 90 minutes and two hours. The car made it to inspection three minutes before the deadline.
If late, Dixon would have had to start 33rd in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29.
“We like to set records at Chip Ganassi Racing, but that’s not one that we really shoot for,” said team managing director Mike Hull. “It was a terrific team effort. We have four different colored shirts here for this event, two colors of blue, black and red shirts. We had the rainbow of colors working on this car. It really resembled a Formula One pit stop at one time (with so many crewmen swarming the car).”
Crew chief Blair Julian said as many as 30 crewmen from the Ganassi teams involving the cars driven by Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and rookie Max Chilton participated in the “thrashing.”
“It’s probably the best time that we’ve done,” Julian said of the swap. And this came on the heels of all four cars’ crews working late into Saturday night putting the Chilton's crashed car back together.
Dixon, without any shakedown or installation check of the new engine, went out and qualified the car 13th with a four-lap average of 227.991 mph.
And his crew had to do it again. The race engine was scheduled to be installed tonight.
“It’s not going to be 64 minutes this time,” Julian joked.
As soon as the 2008 Indy 500 champion had secured his spot in the field, the car was wheeled back to technical inspection and then to the garage to begin the next switch.
When Dixon finished qualifying for his 14th Indy 500, Julian exhaled.
“I’m pretty relieved,” said Julian, who has been with Ganassi for 14 years.
Dixon’s laps ranked fourth among the qualifiers who didn’t make the Fast Nine Shootout, but the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion was the only one to hop into a car with a new motor and gave it his best shot.
“That’s pretty brave,” Julian said. “Hopefully that comes down from trust in the guys.”
A four-time series champion and winner of 39 races, which ranks tied for fourth all time, Dixon is known for his icy cool demeanor. The 35-year-old gave full credit to the crew.
“Amazing job, they’re known for that,” Dixon said. “We’re definitely the best team or one of the best. To see in crunch times like that with everybody chipping in, it shows the class of everybody involved. When the heat’s on, they can get it done.”