Scott Dixon looks on in Toronto. (Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski)

Scott Dixon Searching For ‘Defining’ Seventh Title

TORONTO – There are few drivers better on the streets of Toronto than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who has four wins in the Honda Indy Toronto.

He hopes to continue that trend in Sunday’s edition of the famed street race in the fourth largest city in North America.

In 14 starts at one of the major events on the IndyCar schedule, Dixon has four wins, six podiums and two poles in the Honda Indy Toronto. He has just two races where he did not finish and has led an astounding 240 laps at Toronto, including a race-high 40 laps in 2022.

Dixon has discovered that formula of success and intends to continue that Sunday.

“This year, we have made gains on the street course program,” Dixon said. “City streets, what is there one year may be different the next. 

“Last year, we had really strong cars here and traditionally we’ve had really strong cars here with different drivers. It’s a team thing and maybe driver a little bit. Being able to attack is big.

“The competition in the series right now is through the roof so anything that happens over the weekend can make it challenging.”

Dixon enters the race 110 points behind Ganassi teammate Alex Palou in the battle for the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series championship. Maximum points for a race are 54, so Palou has just over two races’ worth of points as his cushion over Dixon with eight races remaining.

Dixon must make his move Sunday if he has any hopes of contending for the championship.

“I hope so,” he said. “I think there are 26 others that need to start making that move in the championship as well. Alex has had a tremendous run throughout the season and has a nice, strong points lead at the moment.

“This race is a ton of fun. I wish we raced in more locations in Canada. I think the fans here are tremendous as well. Just the size of the event, the atmosphere here is a lot of fun. The track is a little tricky. It’s a very tough circuit here, especially with 27 cars. 

“Our cars have been strong this year and we hope to keep that going throughout and get all four cars up in the championship.

“As a group, everybody has been doing a fantastic job.”

The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda returned to the 11-turn, 1.786-mile street course in 2022 for the renewal of this great event. Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Honda Indy Toronto was not held in 2020 and 2021 in the interest of public health safety concerns.

It was given the green flag to resume in 2022 and the drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series did not disappoint.

Dixon started second and drove to his fourth Honda Indy Toronto win in 2022. That continued an impressive streak for Dixon, who has two wins and one second place finish in the last three IndyCar contests on the streets of Toronto.

“It’s a circuit that you can really attack,” Dixon said of Toronto. “Some of the circuits now with some of the tires that we have, you almost have to drive at 8/10ths. This one you can drive at 12/10ths.

“You can overextend yourself, find that little bit more speed, risk versus reward. I can’t stand circuits with a lot of runoffs; you make a mistake, and nothing happens.

“This one is very technical, very tricky. A bit of a bullring. There’s no real time to let up. I think it’s a combo with the way I drive to how good the team is.”

He proved that in last year’s Honda Indy Toronto. 

Scott Dixon on his way to his 52nd career win in Toronto. (Al Steinberg Photo)

The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing started on the outside of the front row, made his first pit stop on Lap 18 and masterfully saved fuel throughout the race. 

He was able to keep the hard-charging Honda driven by Colton Herta in his rear-view mirror all the way to the checkered flag.

Dixon defeated Herta by 0.8106 seconds. It was an IndyCar-record 18th-straight season that Dixon has won a race. The driver from Auckland, New Zealand has also won an IndyCar race in 20 seasons during his 22-year career that began in CART with PacWest Racing in 2001.

The only seasons Dixon has not won a race was in 2002 and 2004.

Dixon’s win was also historic.

It was his 52nd career IndyCar win, tying him with Mario Andretti for second place on the all-time victory list. A.J. Foyt is IndyCar’s all-time winner with 67 career victories and is the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times in his career.

“I have the utmost respect for my friend Scott Dixon and truly happy to congratulate him on 52 wins,” Andretti said afterwards. “Also congratulate his team because nobody does it alone. I hope this is just a step on your continuing journey. Well done.”

Andretti’s congratulations put a smile on the race-winner’s face.

“It means a lot,” Dixon said. “I love Mario. I love Mario for so many reasons, what he’s done in the sport, achieved, what he gives back to the sport.

“I feel extremely lucky to have the likes of himself and A.J. here most weekends. Even to sit and chat with these guys, the generations that they raced in or the time they raced is a lot different from now.

“It means a lot to me, to even be mentioned in the same conversation as these greats. I never thought it was possible. For me, it’s a huge credit to obviously the team that I work with now, but also the team that I started with, whether it was mum and dad to my brothers and sisters, all my family, to the Scott Dixon Motorsport Group, which were the founders of getting a group together to put forward money and enable to get me to where I am today.

“As he stated, it’s a team effort. But those words from Mario mean everything to me.”

Dixon, who now has 53 career wins, returns to Toronto in 2023 hoping to extend his seasons with a victory streak one more year and get one more victory closer to AJ Foyt’s all-time career wins record of 67.

“We’ll keep going, man,” Dixon said. “If we can get on a roll here and knock out some wins, anything’s possible. 

“A.J.’s record is pretty safe, I think.”

Dixon believes the Honda Indy Toronto is one of the highlights of his season.

“It’s cool, it’s fun,” Dixon said. “Always going to Canada is a lot of fun.

“It’s always a great atmosphere there and a fun circuit. We have gone through many different iterations throughout the past 20 years, but it’s a fun track. Last year, we missed a little in qualifying and started second, but had the pace in the race to get the lead.

“We cruised from that point.”

The week after this year’s Indianapolis 500, Dixon finished fourth on the streets of Detroit. He believed the nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit helped prepare him for Toronto.

“There are similarities as far as surfaces, going from asphalt to concrete, smooth concrete to ground concrete,” Dixon explained. “You have so many different surfaces that the car has to handle.

“Also, you are surrounded by walls at both tracks.

“We’ve had good races at Toronto and have had some great battles there, going all the way back to my days with Dario Franchitti.”

Dixon began the 2023 season with a third-place finish in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 5. That race is part of the Green Savoree Promotions group of the four races that also included the July 2 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, the Honda Indy Toronto, and the September 3 Grand Prix of Portland.

He was fifth in the first oval race of the season at Teas Motor Speedway on April 2, seventh at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 30 and followed with a pair of sixth places finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on two different race courses.

He was sixth in the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course and sixth in the 107th Indianapolis 500 on May 28 on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

The IndyCar legend from New Zealand turns 43 on July 22. Dixon remains a contender for the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series championship, which would tie A.J. Foyt for the all-time record with seven.

“To get that seventh championship would be defining,” Dixon said. “That is the goal. It’s been a decent, steady start to the season. You always want a little more. There are always areas to improve on and we will keep chipping away.

“Hopefully, we can make that come true.”

Dixon has come a long way since he joined Indy Lights in the late 1990s as a pudgy kid from New Zealand. When he drove to victory at Nazareth Speedway on May 7, 2001, he was the youngest winner in IndyCar history at that time as a 20-year-old. Since that time, the record has been lowered by Marco Andretti in 2006, Graham Rahal in 2008 and Colton Herta at Circuit of the Americas in 2019.

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Scott Dixon scored his 53rd Indy Car victory at the Music City Grand Prix last season. (Al Steinberg photo)

When he drove to victory in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on August 7, it broke the time for second place on the all-time IndyCar victory list with Andretti.

“I remember the day winning my first race, the next day was a real struggle,” Dixon recalled, referring to the aftereffects of his celebration. “I remember even having the conversation with Michael Andretti about getting to his number (42 wins). ‘Man, you’re crazy, it’s not going to happen.’ 

“He’s like, ‘No, it’s going to happen. Honestly, it’s going to happen really fast.’

“The first win, there’s some numbers that are achievable. But I think when you look at even getting to the Unsers, then Mario, this sport can be super tricky. You can be in it one minute and out the next.

“I think having the consistency and the understanding with the team, having that common ground of trying to win, it becomes the life of it being more achievable that comes.

“Honestly, at the age of 20, man, trust me, I had other things on my mind at that point. I was just trying to keep my job.

“Even being in IndyCar racing for 20-plus years, I’m learning every day, man, and it doesn’t stop. It’s continuous. It’s hard work. I guess that’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to be committed and you’ve got to be committed for everybody that’s involved, but you have to get after it.”

The distance from Dixon’s hometown of Auckland, New Zealand to Toronto, Ontario is 8,632 miles or 13,879 kilometers.

It’s pretty much on the other side of the Earth.

But the two countries are also part of the British Commonwealth. New Zealand and Canada are members of the United Kingdom.

In a sense, that makes Toronto Dixon’s “home track.”

“It always feels goods to win at home,” the Honda driver said. “That’s when you turn it up a little bit, just that extra bit.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m at home. The fans are super into it. It’s just very special I think to be back here. I think sometimes it takes moments like obviously what we had, we weren’t here to really appreciate what we have as a sport and the people that love our sport.

“It’s good to be back here in Canada.”