LOS ANGELES – With the Iowa Corn 300 behind them and the Honda Indy Toronto ahead, Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal are living in the present this week.
That means trips to Los Angeles for the 24th annual ESPY Awards.
Dixon, the four-time and reigning series champion, and Rossi, who won the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, are nominated along with Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton, NASCAR’s Kyle Busch and NHRA’s Erica Enders-Stevens for the “Best Driver” ESPY. One will win, based on online voting that is open until the show airs at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on ABC. (Vote for Rossi or Dixon here.)
The gigantic sports party kicks off today, with Rahal playing in the 2016 ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach, Calif., along with basketball legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown and a list of other sports greats (see image at bottom). “Dancing with the Stars” professional dancer Tony Dovolani, actor/producer Alan Thicke and ESPN on-air talents are expected to play, too. The event, which gives participants the opportunity to golf with Rahal and the other celebrities and professional athletes, raises money for the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
"While I certainly don't feel like I fit the ‘celebrity’ mold to the level of folks like Dr. J, it’s very cool to be invited by ESPN and be in this great field of sporting all-stars,” Rahal said. “I hope I can play well, as I haven't been able to play much recently with the mix of my INDYCAR/NHRA (he is married to drag racer Courtney Force) schedule balancing act. Looking forward to getting out there and swinging the clubs as hard as I can!"
While Rahal works on his golf game this week, Dixon and Rossi are keeping a busy schedule of interviews, photo shoots and show tapings.
When he appeared Monday on “The Rich Eisen Show,” Rossi added his signature to a 100th Indianapolis 500 souvenir milk bottle previously signed by Dixon. Always the competitor, Rossi wrote, “I won Indy. Not Scott.”
Afterward, Rossi headed off to meet Motor Trend’s Carlos Lago, who let him choose among a lot of supercars to take for a spin. Rossi picked the Acura NSX and Rossi and Lago, both Californians, took it for a cruise.
“We had a few laughs when we figured out launch control,” Lago wrote on his Instagram account.
Then came lunch in Beverly Hills and questions from a TMZ reporter, who stopped Rossi on the street while a Rodeo Drive paparazzi photographer snapped photos.
“It’s different,” Rossi said of the L.A. experience thus far, “but I think it’s a wonderful thing for the INDYCAR championship and hopefully will lead to building some momentum stateside. I hope we can capitalize on it in the best way possible and me personally doing the same thing. It’s a very good thing and hopefully it will just continue to further people’s interest in the series and the sport.”
Rossi said he’s looking forward to doing a little stargazing himself. He wants to meet Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and retired superstar Peyton Manning.
Dixon and his wife, Emma, arrive today, in time to attend a couple invitation-only parties – The Players’ Tribune ESPYS party, called “Players Night Out,” and ESPN’s ESPYS kick-off event at the historic Avalon nightclub in Hollywood.
Wednesday, Dixon and Rossi attend the award show and, with luck and fan votes, one could go home with the “Best Driver” trophy.
"It's a tremendous honor to be nominated alongside so many other great drivers for this award,” Dixon said. “I've been nominated once before but never had the opportunity to attend the ESPYs. I’m looking forward to the event and seeing who comes out on top in all the categories involving so many top-level athletes from around the world of sports."