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Scott Dixon, the 'brilliantly boring' IndyCar star, still seeking his second Indianapolis 500 win

IndyCar Indy 500 Auto Racing
Posted at 7:58 AM, May 24, 2024
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The marketing campaign calls one of the most accomplished drivers in Indianapolis 500 history “Brilliantly Boring.”

It isn't far off the mark.

Yet the description, at least as it applies to Scott Dixon, requires a bit of explanation.

It doesn't refer to the 43-year-old Dixon's personality, which is quite warm and engaging — at a school visit this week, after other drivers had already left, Dixon waded hip-deep into children and signed autographs until his wrist hurt. Nor is it a not-so-subtle dig at his life away from the track, where the father of three has plenty of other interests.

Rather it is an apt description for what has made the six-time IndyCar champion — and the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 — so consistently good for so many years: The stuff that other people consider boring? He is brilliant at it.

Two decades ago, when Dixon was just starting out in IndyCar and his longtime team, Chip Ganassi Racing, was running underpowered Toyota engines, he learned how to conserve fuel better than just about anyone. He figured it was the best way that he could win a race, and he wound up proving the point late in the 2005 season at Watkins Glen.

The hours that teams spend poring over data? Dixon is right there with the engineers, going through all those flickering numbers that appear meaningless to most everyone else but ultimately make the difference between winning and losing.

“I think it's more about the process, right?” Dixon explained Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the countdown is on for the 108th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," assuming the forecasted rain on Sunday holds off.

“Some of the things we find boring,” Dixon said, “the training, the data that all of us go through — it's the process, right? Some would find that the process is kind of boring. But it's a necessity, and something you need to do.”

That's why the primary sponsor of his car, PNC Bank, seized on the idea with the whole “Brilliantly Boring” campaign.

“Some people think banking is boring, but if you do it well ...” Dixon said, before trailing off.

Dixon is a testament to doing it well.

Doing it exceptionally, more accurately, especially at the Indy 500.

He's been on the pole five times, including 2008, when he also reached victory lane. He has led the race 15 times, tied with Tony Kanaan for the most in its history. And perhaps most stunning, Dixon has led 665 laps over the course of 21 races, nearly double that of four-time winner Helio Castroneves, who is second among active drivers with 326.

Dixon has been largely off the radar this May, though, even though he won three of the last four IndyCar races last season, took the checkered flag again earlier this year at Long Beach, and was fourth a couple of weeks ago on the Indianapolis road course to send his team barrelling toward the Indy 500 with plenty of momentum.

Maybe it has something to do with his disappointing performance in qualifying.

Dixon's team struggled to find speed in practice, even swapping out Honda engines, and it showed last weekend, when he only managed 21st on the 33-car starting grid. That means Dixon will start behind three rookies, including 19-year-old Kyffin Simpson and 23-year-old Marcus Armstrong in the row just ahead of him, with a whole lot of ground to make up.

“The starting position is one thing,” Dixon said. “The we way we look at it, even after last year — the first stint, our tire issue — we were 28th or something, ended up getting back to the top five towards the last stint. Anything is possible in this race.

“I think people always have issues,” Dixon added. "I think for us, with where we’re starting as a group, you definitely need to have no more issues from the outside part because of what happened in qualifying.”

Dixon isn't the only veteran that has to come from deep in the field. Castroneves will be starting alongside him in the middle of Row 7, and Marco Andretti will be on the inside, and that trio has a combined 62 starts among them.

Each was asked Thursday what it will take to get to the front. Castroneves replied that he was “going to read the race and go according to it,” while Andretti said he would be “methodical” and “drive it more like a marathon rather than a sprint.”

“I'm trying to get all 20 in the first lap, man,” Dixon said with a smile.

“Obviously to be in it," he added, “you've got to be there at the end. We'll see.”