Not long ago, Dario Franchitti wondered out loud why his “dude” wasn’t getting his due. After all, Scott Dixon moved into fourth place on the all-time list of winners in Indy car racing, establishing his place in history, but few seemed to notice.
Why is it that the best of the era is doing it before an audience that seems to be napping in a library? Why is it that the guy who trails only A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti isn’t on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a guest on every late-night talk show?
At the time, Dario’s notion was seconded on social media, but it’s time for a third, fourth and fifth. For those too young to remember A.J. and Mario, Dixon is the best you’ll see, and it’s time to acknowledge and amplify that fact in the moment. Not wait until it’s over, but say it loud, in real time, while we’re still watching him.
I’ll start. Scott Dixon is the best I’ve ever covered. There, I feel better already.
The factual foundation for that statement is in the numbers, of course. After Sunday’s win at Road America, his total stands at 41 victories, one short of tying Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list of Indy car winners. There are four championships, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 win and three Indy poles.
The emotional foundation for that statement, though, is the human being behind those accomplishments. I’ve often said I never met a stupid racer. Met a lot of crazy ones, but never a stupid one. Dixon is neither stupid nor crazy – in fact, he’s the antithesis of both. He’s as sharp and as normal a racer as I’ve run across.
Some years ago, I wrote a feature story about Dixon for Racer magazine that led with a vignette that hadn’t been heard much in the States. When he was 13, Dixon was granted a special license to compete in a sedan race against adults at Pukekohe Park Raceway in New Zealand.
He blushed his way through the retelling of the tale, but he embraced it. This was his story – the tale of a child prodigy who didn’t come from massive family wealth, a talent so immense it couldn’t be ignored. He quietly but enthusiastically talked about the race, how he crashed and flipped and crawled from the car with a floral pillow taped to his butt, all televised live nationally.
The worst part? (More blushing.) Tears were streaming down his face. Wisely, young Scott kept his helmet on. Watch here:
Wise and self-aware. That’s an appropriate basis for his story. Scott Dixon isn’t loud, isn’t a braggart, isn’t one to draw eyes to himself. In a sport that almost demands its participants generate their own attention, Dixon doesn’t. In part because he doesn’t need to, but also because it’s the opposite of who he is. Being quiet and deliberate and utterly normal doesn’t go over well in such a deafening, crazy sport. Those attributes are often misinterpreted as aloofness or – worse yet – dullness.
But this isn’t a dull person or a dull story. Dixon is 36 years old, in the prime of his personal and professional life, fresh from a triumphant statement at an iconic road course and leaning into another Verizon IndyCar Series championship. And it’s being done by someone who – while not always fond of being the center of attention – understands and welcomes the gravity of what he’s accomplishing.
If you want a more clear view of the man, watch Dixon’s news conference after winning the pole at Indy last month. Daughters Tilly and Poppy stole the scene while Dad beamed and laughed along. Or watch him surprise Lucy, a 9-year-old fan who wrote a letter of concern after his crash at Indy.
This is the person inside the helmet. This is what we should be seeing but often overlook. If you’re of a certain age, Dixon is the best you’ll ever see, and the reasons go far beyond racing.
Don’t wait. Celebrate that loudly. While it’s happening.